Luis Goehler during a recent game at Mission Bay. Photo by Ed Piper, Jr.
Luis Goehler, a striker from Halle, Germany, has the disarming smile and bright blue eyes that could serve as the new face of the La Jolla High soccer team. His warmth and friendliness – not to say his stellar speed with or without the ball – embody some of the increased excitement surrounding the Vikings soccer program following their CIF championship in Division 4 last March.
This year’s squad, which already had somewhat of an international flavor, has stepped that up considerably with the addition of Goehler, a 5’8” speedster, who hails from just south of Leipzig in the former East Germany; Pablo Jativa, a defender from Spain; as well as junior Marco Furlanis, one of two captains for head coach Marcos Gonzales, whose father Salvatore is from Italy and his mother Roberta from Brazil.
Add into that world citizen gumbo our traditional Mexican salsa of Southern California, and you’ve got an 11-man side that could go places, so to speak. Andrew Estrella, who opened the season with a flurry of goals from his forward position, Jose Bello, who helps hold down the defense from his back position in front of goalkeeper Tai Nguyen, and Brando Diaz at midfield all are likely to respond favorably to assistant coach Victor Zendejas’ exhortations in Spanish and English from the sidelines during the game.
“He’s funny,” allows Grant Wagner, a sophomore who joined the high school team after his club team commitment was completed, of Zendejas, a former Viking standout.
It’s all part of the complementary roles Gonzales and Zendejas fill in seeking to get the best out of their talented contingent--the one quiet, serious, the other outgoing, with a nickname ready for a player. La Jolla’s program has always had the talent out of a pool that includes several club players, but lacked the continuity the two coaches provided once they came on the scene three years ago.
Nguyen, who blocked the seventh penalty kick in a “golden boot” sudden-death situation in the CIF semifinal game against Serra last winter after two overtime periods to win a grueling 1-0 victory, may be the straw that stirs the drink.
“He has a personality,” Gonzales, by nature reserved, said last year of his goalkeeper. During the penalty kicks, the animated Nguyen was seen imploring himself and the skies for more alertness and quickness to the ball.
Amidst this potpourri of skills and personalities, Goehler (pronounced between “Goo-ler” and “Gyoo-ler” by Luis) brings a fresh new haircut with razor cuts laterally on one side and a grin to match. He’s got striker skills honed playing for the Hallescher FC in his hometown of Halle.
“We had practice six or seven times a week,” he relates. “We don’t pay (to be in the academy). They have a lot of sponsors (in Germany soccer academies). Puma is the sponsor for Halle.”
The 17-year-old junior, who plans to stay in the U.S. next year as well and graduate from La Jolla High, has already played for the Albion club locally on one of its “99” teams (1999 is his birth year). Senior Takumi Nishikawa, Furlanis,
Jack Barone, the other captain, and Jativa all play for one of the Albion teams.
As far as his outgoing nature and open smile, Goehler says, “I’m like my father (Thomas). My brother (Nick, 15) is like our mother (Silke). I think I got everything from my father.” He says that his Halle coaches placed emphasis on people skills. “We have to say hello to parents and other coaches.”
At one of La Jolla’s early matches at Mission Bay this season, Thomas called out from the stands to his son during the game, “Das spielen.” Translated, it means “the play” or “the playing”. Dad explains that he was encouraging Luis not to try to score in front of the goalie when the goalie comes out to defend. Instead, dribble around him to the space left open to the goal.
“If he kicks with the goalie in front of him, the space is small. If he goes around him, the space becomes much bigger,” Thomas, bearded, elaborates. He is here pursuing business opportunities.
Goehler primes himself for games listening to what he calls “push” music – music that will push him in the game. “In Germany, we have a locker room like here. We have a music box. We’d all listen to the same music. We’d go out to warm up. Then we’d come back into the locker room, listen to two songs, and then go out for the game.”
He favors a German rapper known as KC Rebel, who comes from Berlin, north of Halle.
Two good friends from home, Justin Scholz and Luis Saeger, will be here over the Christmas holidays to visit and stay with the Goehler family. They won’t get to see Luis play in his American environs, however, as the team is off during the winter break.