Any soccer freaks out there?

I got this e-mail a few weeks ago:

Ftbol de Primera is pleased to inform you that you have been chosen as part of an elite group of sports journalists to vote for the best player on the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team in 2008.

In 2007, 203 journalists voted Landon Donovan as the winner of the Honda Player of the Year Award for a record fourth time, awarding him with 413 points. Tim Howard was the runner-up with 122 points and Carlos Bocanegra finished third with 105 points.

Created in 1991 by Ftbol de Primera, the Honda Player of the Year Award is now in its 18th year. Voters include print, radio, television and internet journalists from across the nation.

Not bad for a kid who grew up in da hood.

Some background … I covered high school boys soccer at The Orange County Register for four years.

Eight months later, I started covering Chivas USA and Major League Soccer and went on to also cover numerous soccer tournaments including SuperLiga, the Gold Cup, World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies as the soccer beat reporter.

I was never a soccer fan growing up. But when I started covering high school boys soccer I truly fell in love with the sport and the passion. I really got into soccer because I was promoted to cover pro soccer and I really wanted to kick butt by breaking stories, which I did many times. Covering high school and pro soccer was my beat for a long time before I was promoted to cover the Lakers and Angels.

Come high school soccer season I’ll be out on the pitch covering boys and girls soccer, a first for me. St. Francis boys soccer without a doubt is the soccer powerhouse in the San Gabriel Valley along with Damien in La Verne and La Habra, too. But those schools are Tribune and Whittier schools so who cares about them until the playoffs. La Habra plays in Division II so they won’t meet the Golden Knights or the Spartans. The Highlanders, however, are the two-time defending champs in Division II

As some of you know, the U.S. Soccer Federation started an academy which I personally think will fail in a few years after players realize they get more exposure playing for their high school teams. I predicted this when the academy was first announced. More on that when the season gets underway.

I’ve been voting and attending the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year awards banquet and U.S. Soccer symposium the last four years. This year I voted Landon Donovan first, Tim Howard second and Clint Dempsey third, respectively. Dempsey and Donovan both were cool guys to cover. Never met Howard but he seems like a good guy.

Well, enough futbol. Back to football.

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Prep Scene: Honorees, rankings and statistics

High school honorees, rankings and statistics compiled by Miguel A. Melendez


Dietrich Riley
St. Francis
Running Back

Favorite hobby: Playing sports
Favorite musical artist: Lil’ Wayne
Favorite movie: Friday Night Lights
Favorite athlete: Adrian Peterson
Favorite food: Italian food
Accomplishments: The junior running back rushed for 213 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the top-ranked Golden Knights to a 27-13 victory over Crescenta Valley last week.

Brittnie Muoz
Cross Country

Favorite hobby: Listening to music
Favorite musical artist: Gwen Stefani
Favorite movie: “Corky Romano”
Favorite athlete: David Beckham
Favorite food: Ice cream
Favorite television show: “Heroes”
Accomplishments: The junior won Arroyo’s Fastback Invitational on Sept. 13 and won Rosemead Invitational on Sept. 20 placing second overall among 399 runners with a time of 17:48.


Jarron Williams, Muir: The quarterback completed 11 of 19 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns to lead Muir past Venice, 33-14, last week..

Scott Dooley, San Marino: The running back rushed for 155 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown to lead the Titans past La Salle, 34-16.

Benny Hung, San Marino: The running back rushed for 102 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns.

Joey Stewart, Temple City: The senior running back rushed for 143 yards on 24 carries and had a score in the Rams’ 14-10 loss to Alhambra.

Tim Esguerra, Rio Hondo Prep: The running back rushed for 183 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns in the Kares’ 28-26 loss to Brentwood.

Antonio Alaniz, Rio Hondo Prep: The running back rushed for 126 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown for the Kares.


1. St. Francis (2-0)
Burroughs could be a test

2. Muir (2-1)
Enters league with confidence

3. Rosemead (2-0)
Defense could use a tweak

4. Arcadia (1-1)
Heads to Lynwood banged up

5. San Marino (2-0)
Guess who’s back? The Titans

6. Temple City (1-1)
Played uncharacteristic Friday

7. Monrovia (1-2)
Wildcats offense getting there

8. San Gabriel (1-2)
Should be easy sail from here

9. Maranatha (3-0)
It gets tougher from here

10. Alhambra (1-1)
Moors need to limit mistakes


1. Westridge
Only lost six sets in six matches

2. Flintridge Sacred Heart
Tologs beat La Caada in four

3. La Caada
In Royal Tournament Saturday

4. Gabrielino
Impressive 7-3 start

5. Mayfield
It’s been a tough start

6. San Gabriel
Hasn’t played much yet

7. Arcadia
Beginning Pacific League play

8. La Salle
Things looking up

9. Monrovia
Los to La Salle in four

10. Rio Hondo Prep
Begins season 2-1

Thursday’s game

Burroughs at St. Francis, 7:30 p.m.

Friday’s games
Hoover at San Marino, 7 p.m.
Temple City at San Gabriel, 7 p.m.
Alhambra at La Canada, 7 p.m.
Arcadia at Lynwood, 7 p.m.
Glendale at South Pasadena, 7 p.m.
Beckman at Monrovia, 7 p.m.
Blair vs. Jefferson at PCC, 7 p.m.
South Hills at Duarte, 7 p.m.
Bosco Tech vs. La Salle at St. Matthias, 7 p.m.
Keppel at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Village Christian at Gabrielino, 7 p.m.
Rio Hondo Prep at Sage Hill, 7 p.m.
Flintridge Prep vs. Campbell Hall at Occidental College, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s game
Marshall at Chadwick, 2 p.m.

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Star-News Football Top 10 dilemma

So here’s my dilemma.

The top four teams in the area are pretty solid and can go without question:

1. St. Francis

2. Muir

3. Rosemead

4. Arcadia

5-10 is a whole other story.

San Marino is probably a lock for the No. 5 spot. They are 2-0 and beat a very good La Salle team despite its record.

So look for the Titans to move up a spot from No. 6, meaning Temple City, who previously held the No. 5 spot, will be moved down, but how far down is the question.

The Rams played uncharacteristic last Friday in a 14-10 loss to Alhambra.

Monrovia, who held the No. 7 spot, lost to a very good Rosemead team in a game that was closer than the score indicated.

San Gabriel, who held the No. 8 spot, played a very very tough Serra team. The Matadors got blown out but the experience was plentiful. San Gabriel saw speed, size and athleticism, something that’ll likely go unmatched the rest of the season or even come playoffs.

Maranatha, holding strong at No. 9, routed a team they should have beaten. Things will get a little harder from here on out for the Minutemen so they’ll be tested and have to prove their worth in the rankings.

Then there’s Alhambra, who held the No. 10 spot … The Moors had to rally to beat Temple City. If not for the numerous dropped balls by the Rams and silly but costly mistakes by Alhambra this game becomes more exciting and possibly closer than it was.

So who to rank 5-10 is the dilemma.

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….Star Picks….All football, all the time

Star-News preps writer Keith Lair and I will be going head-to-head throughout the season, and I will update our records each Monday on the “Star Picks” thread.

Melendez: Last week: 12-4; Overall: 26-15
Lair: Last week: 11-5; Overall: 28-13

Notes: My wrong picks were Hoover (lost to South Pasadena); Temple City (lost to Alhambra); Keppel (lost to Gabrielino); and Brentwood (lost to Rio Hondo Prep). Lair’s wrong picks were Temple City (lost to Alhambra); La Salle (lost to San Marino); Duarte (lost to Pomona); Capistrano Valley (lost to Maranatha); and Gladstone (lost to Bosco Tech). If it wasn’t for my horrific Week 0 start, I’d probably be running away with the lead. So for now Lair is two wins up on me. Some of you guys have posted your picks which are great but how about you add up your records while your at and see how you fare through the season.

Tough picks: I might head over to the Burroughs-St. Francis game and just watch. Keith Lair will be covering the game. This could be a close game than most probably expect. San Gabriel I think has more weapons on offense than Temple City. The Matadors can attack you just as good on the ground as they can over the air. Joey Stewart will be one tough assignment for the Matadors. Nice battle of the private schools between Bosco and La Salle. Arcadia-Lynwood should be pretty good if the Apaches are back to 100 percent.

Thursday, Sept. 25
Burroughs at St. Francis, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (St. Francis); Lair (St. Francis)

Friday, Sept. 26
Hoover at San Marino, 7 p.m. — Melendez (San Marino); Lair (San Marino)
Temple City at San Gabriel, 7 p.m. — Melendez (San Gabriel); Lair (Temple City)
Alhambra at La Canada, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Alhambra); Lair (Alhambra)
Arcadia at Lynwood, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Arcadia); Lair (Lynwood)
Glendale at South Pasadena, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Glendale); Lair (Glendale)
Beckman at Monrovia, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Monrovia); Lair (Beckman)
Blair vs. Jefferson at PCC, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Blair); Lair (Jefferson)
South Hills at Duarte, 7 p.m. — Melendez (South Hills); Lair (South Hills)
Bosco Tech vs. La Salle at St. Matthias, 7 p.m. — Melendez (La Salle); Lair (La Salle)
Keppel at Mountain View, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Keppel); Lair (Mountain View)
Village Christian at Gabrielino, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Gabrielino); Lair (Gabrielino)
Rio Hondo Prep at Sage Hill, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Rio Hondo Prep); Lair (Rio Hondo Prep)
Flintridge Prep vs. Campbell Hall at Occidental College, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Flintridge Prep); Lair (Campbell Hall)

Saturday, Sept. 27
Marshall at Chadwick, 2 p.m. — Melendez (Chadwick); Lair (Chadwick)

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UCLA Postgame: Bruins offense continues to sputter

Just got home from the Rose Bowl. I took my sister with me. It was her first UCLA football game.

Other than UCLA’s poor effort on offense it went OK.

The Bruins had only 196 total yards in a 31-10 loss to the Wildcats.


UCLA wasn’t really hurt by penalties. They were hurty by Kevin Craft’s ineffective passing. The kid played well against Tennessee. I give him credit for that great second half. But he was nonexistent against BYU and again against Arizona. Kraft completed 15 of 31 passes for just 81 yards. Derrick Coleman had a pretty good showing at running back. If the other guys won’t step up I say let the freshman play.

UCLA has one of the best offensive coordinators in the nation with Norm Chow. But it’s not showing. Patience? I guess. I’m just frustrated that the Bruins will have to take a back seat to USC football yet again this season. At least we scored some points this time, albeit it came on defense after a fumble recovery in the end zone.

The best way my sister can describe both teams is this way:

USC football are the Lakers of college football.

UCLA … the Clippers.

I was pretty upset UCLA didn’t go for it on fourth and 1 on the Arizona 14 (I think) and UCLA let the clock wind down to two seconds before they kicked a field goal. They should have just gone for the first down and tried one play for the end zone. There was plenty of time. That falls on coaching, not the players who’ve gotten plenty of blame of late. No offensive touchdowns in two straight games?!?!? Ugh!

Next weekend I celebrate my 25th birthday. I was planning on starting my day at the Rose Bowl for the Fresno State game but after today I might just save my time and energy for something more productive.

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