The Silicon Valley is known for its prowess in the field of tech, but on Friday, July 12, a group of 13-year-olds from Mountain View and Los Altos will showcase their talent and skill on another kind of field: the soccer field.
The Mountain View Los Altos Pumas will face off in the Elite National Premier League (ENPL) semi-final game in Commerce City, Colorado, after successfully competing as one of 32 teams in the quarter-finals in Rockford, Illinois.
The team has been together for five years, said coach Carlos Menjivar. Earlier this year it won the state championship for the Under 14 Norcal National Premier League Champions League. Menjivar attributes the team’s success to the improvement of individual players’ skills on the field, as well as their personal connection off of the field.
The club’s executive director, Joseph Cannon, credits the success to Menjivar, and says that the club places a high priority on bringing on coaches who are primarily great people, not just great coaches.
Menjivar said that Pumas players come from a variety of backgrounds, and that knowing and trusting one’s teammates can make the difference in the outcome of a game.
His role at the semi-final on Friday, Menjivar said, will be to make sure that the boys feel confident in their abilities, play as a team and not rely on any one player for their success. “You always want to build them up. They may have a difficult opponent. You want them to feel confident, to stay focused in key moments of the game,” Menjivar said.
Cannon said he is excited by how far the team has advanced, especially considering that it was only a few years ago the club decided to overhaul the boy’s program. As a former professional player, Cannon said he knows what it takes to compete at the highest level.“It’s important to celebrate these moments when they come along, he said.”
But it’s not just what happens on the field that determines if a team is successful, Menjivar said, it’s the attitude and effort of the community and how connected players feel to one another.
Cannon shares a similar view, and notes that it can be difficult to remain grounded when traveling around the country to play at an elite level. “We really have a love for this community, for the club itself. That’s our whole ethos -- trying to balance being an elite club and staying loyal, serving our community here in Mountain View and Los Altos. Balancing those things can be tough but that’s also what drives us," Cannon said.
The team started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for travel, hotel and other expenses, and Menjivar said that they hope to fully fund each player’s trip to Colorado. If they win the semi-final game, the Pumas will advance to the final the next day, Saturday June 13.