Boys Soccer All-Area: Season of domination for Cannata


Coach of the Year: Barry Ritson, La Caada, First year
Player of the Year: Matthew Cannata, La Caada, Jr.

Forward: Cameron Meeker, La Caada, Jr.
Forward: Mathias Ibaez, Monrovia, Sr.
Forward: Victor Lugo, Muir, Sr.
Midfielder: Omar Reyes, Pasadena, Sr.
Midfielder: James Evans, Maranatha, Sr.
Midfielder: Dante Ramunno, St. Francis, Sr.;
Defender: Max Cadena, St. Francis, Sr.
Defender: Matthew Diephius, Pasadena Poly, Sr.
Defender: Diego Ruano, La Caada, Sr.
Defender: Ryan Upton, La Caada, Sr.
Goalkeeper: Matt Morrish, Pasadena Poly, Sr.

(Click on thread to continue with Second-Team and story)

Tim Herington, Temple City, Sr.; Danny Ortiz, Arcadia, Jr.; Diego Hernandez, Duarte, Sr.;
Midfielders: Omar Ramirez, Monrovia, Sr.; Estevan Muoz, Duarte, Sr.; Jack Birkenbeuel, Pasadena Poly, So.;
Defenders: Kurt Delahooke, Maranatha, Sr.; Eric Maldonado, Monrovia, So.; Cody Seto, South Pasadena, Sr.
Goalkeeper: Jack Hale, La Caada, Jr.


By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

La Caada High School’s boys soccer team had two goals in mind – winning the Rio Hondo League title and bringing home a CIF-Southern Section Division 5 crown.

First-year Spartans coach Barry Ritson took it a step further – go undefeated in league.

“They thought they should have won it the previous season,” Ritson said. “They wanted to win league, but I gave them the added expectation to win league undefeated. I thought they were good enough.”

La Caada did just that, pummeling opponents with a high-octane offense. With immense talent at virtually every position, Ritson had the luxury of running a 4-4-3 formation, anchored by Matthew Cannata and Cameron Meeker.

The junior duo combined for 57 goals and 25 assists, but it was Cannata who quickly developed into one of the more dangerous players in the Valley with 24 goals and 12 assists, helping La Caada to a Division 5 quarterfinal playoff run.

Cannata’s elusive speed, slashing moves and front-attacking power were keys to his being named Star-News 2010 boys soccer Player of the Year.

“Matt’s just a nightmare to mark,” said Ritson, whose guidance earned him Star-News Coach of the Year honors. “If you get too tight, he turns you and he’s gone. If you give him space you’re never going to catch him. His problem was not getting in the right position at the right time, and this year he got to the right places at the right time, which is reflective of the goals he scored.

“He’s a very good finisher and runs at people. I didn’t see anybody that was more effective than Matt Cannata at that role. In high school soccer you don’t find many of them.”

Ritson, who played in Sunderland FC’s Youth Soccer Academy in England and at the University of North Carolina, inherited a team loaded with talent. But it was Ritson who believed in the Spartans’ talent, to the point he felt comfortable taking away a fourth defender and inserting a fourth forward instead. The message: La Caada would play to score early and often, and its three defenders were talented enough to shut down the counter.

Meeker, a first-team All-CIF honoree and the Rio Hondo League’s Offensive Player of the Year, heads the list of three All-Area forwards. He finished with 33 goals and 13 assists, solidifying Ritson’s offense-first mentality.

“(Former La Caada coach) Jordan Jones did a great job and set the foundation,” Ritson said. “He trusted some of the younger players, and the following year they had the confidence to play better. It was a great base. It was a program that was starting to have a good run and smelled success. I just tweaked it a little bit.”

La Caada went 18-6-4 last year, finished second in league, scored 67 goals and allowed 26. This season, the Spartans went 23-3-1, finished undefeated in league, scored 95 goals and allowed only 12 with virtually the same team.

In the quarterfinals, the Spartans lost to eventual champion Salesian on a goal in overtime that slipped into the net by a mere two inches. With virtually every player coming back next season, it’s easy to see why Ritson wishes it started today.

“Soccer is at the forefront of their mind,” he said. “They already want to know about scrimmages and training throughout the year. It’s things like that that keeps it exciting, which is pretty cool.”

Monrovia’s Mathias Iba ez and Muir’s Victor Lugo are the other two forwards on the All-Area first team.

Ibaez was one of the most feared forwards, finishing with 22 goals and eight assists.

Lugo helped the Mustangs to a second-place finish in the Pacific League, only one point behind Crescenta Valley.

Lugo, who had 23 goals and 10 assists, led Muir to two victories over rival Pasadena and a wild-card victory in the Division 4 playoffs.

Pasadena’s Omar Reyes, Maranatha’s James Evans and St. Francis’ Dante Ramunno are the three All-Area midfielders.

Reyes had 12 goals and eight assists to earn first-team All-Pacific League honors.

Evans earned Alpha League MVP honors after scoring eight goals and 15 assists. He led the Minutemen to their deepest playoff run since a finals appearance in 1997. Maranatha accomplished its goal of winning the school’s first Alpha League title in more than a decade.

Ramunno anchored the midfield for St. Francis and earned third-team All-CIF Division 1 honors.

With a stout backline, it’s no wonder La Caada leads the Star-News’ list of first-team defenders with seniors Ryan Upton and Diego Ruano.

Upton, who will walk on at Michigan State, earned second-team All-Rio Hondo League honors while Ruano earned third-team All-CIF honors.

The other two defenders are St. Francis’ Max Cadena and Pasadena Poly’s Matthew Diephius.

Cadena led St. Francis to a second-round appearance in the Division 1 playoffs and earned first-team All-CIF honors.

Diephius, a first-team All-CIF Division 6 honoree, was one of the more prominent defenders in the area, leading Pasadena Poly to 13 shutouts and the semifinals of the Division 6 playoffs, its deepest postseason run in a decade.

Pasadena Poly’s Matt Morrish, a second-team All-CIF honoree, is the All-Area first-team goalkeeper. He was a virtual wall and made a name for himself when he single-handedly led the Panthers to a 3-0 victory on penalty kicks over Tahquitz after a scoreless tie in the quarterfinals.

He made one huge penalty save in regulation, stopped three more during penalties and scored one of the Panthers’ three penalties to earn the victory.

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