Luca Thomaseto, an exchange student from Brazil, has made a huge impact in his first season playing soccer for El Camino Real. He leads the team in scoring with eight goals. He also could be getting a pep talk this coming week from coach Ian Kogan. The Conquistadores are set to open West Valley League play on Wednesday against defending City Section champion Birmingham at El Camino Real.
Kogan might tell Thomaseto that the rivalry game is similar to Brazil taking on Argentina.
“He didn’t compare it to playing Argentina — not yet,” Thomaseto said.
It’s certainly going to be an intense game.
“It’s always a great match,” Birmingham coach EB Madha said. “It’s one of the great high school rivalries.”
El Camino Real and Birmingham are two of the top teams in the City Section. Sylmar, Marquez and Bell also have displayed top skills in nonleague action.
El Camino Real has received standout performances from Moises Gutierrez and junior goalie Kenny Palos. But Thomaseto, 18, has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Kogan has picked up several exchange students through the years.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, but once every few years, we get a pretty good player from a foreign country,” he said.
Said Thomaseto: “Me and my family decided to have a new experience and improve my English and meet new people.”
He played club soccer in Brazil and has brought a strong work ethic along to El Camino Real. He said he likes the Southern California beaches but prefers the food from Brazil — rice, beans and barbecue. He just turned 18 and plans to return to Brazil after graduating from El Camino Real in the spring — unless another soccer opportunity presents itself.
In girls’ soccer, West Valley League plays begins next week. Granada Hills is considered the favorite because it has the league’s best player in Cordelia Cross, an Oklahoma commit. But El Camino Real will offer strong competition behind junior Kiara Washington.