LAKEWOOD — Alameda International boys soccer coach Cesar Alcocer is helping to set a new standard.
“I’m seeking better opportunities for our kids, our school to get recognized and talk about Alameda in a positive way,” said Alcocer during Monday’s practice for the Pirates. “I wanted to change the reputation.”
Alcocer is a 2009 graduate of Alameda and stayed involved with the Pirates’ soccer program since he graduated as an assistant. He took over the head coaching duties in 2017 after longtime coach Steven Houwen retired from coaching.
Over the past three years, Alcocer’s dream of changing the culture and giving his student-athletes more opportunities on-and-off the field has already started to materialize. Alameda has a stellar 10-1 record, including victories over Class 4A Jeffco League’s Golden and Standley Lake. Golden is currently ranked No. 2 in the 4A boys soccer CHSAANow.com poll.
“Those two wins (Golden and Standley Lake) gave us a lot of confidence,” Alameda senior captain Alisdaid Ovalle said.
The Pirates are No. 6 in the CHSAANow.com rankings and No. 7 in the RPI standings with four regular-season games left.
“I don’t think it’s surprising,” Ovalle said of the Pirates in the top-10 in the rankings and RPI. “It’s been a two-year process where we’ve been on the verge of playoffs. Our hard work is paying off.”
Alameda was just outside the top-32 in RPI the previous two years. The last time the program made the 4A state playoff field was in 2015.
“Being in the playoffs is an honor,” Alameda junior captain Eduardo Rodriguez said. “I’m pretty sure if we make it to the playoffs we’ll be able to compete and we’ll do good.”
The Pirates dropped their 4A/3A Colorado 7 League opener 2-1 to No. 4 Skyview last week, but having a bump along any road is expected.
“That loss was tough. I can’t deny that,” Ovalle said of the loss to Skyview. “We can’t let minor setbacks hold us back. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing and learn from that loss.”
Over the next two weeks, Alameda has conference games against Fort Lupton, Englewood, Conifer and Arvada. The Pirates can clinch a playoff berth and maybe more importantly continue to build on Alcocer’s goals.
“We look at each other as family,” Rodriguez said. “We are really strong together. A lot of us have learned how to play together since our freshman year. I feel like that helps us a lot.”
Alameda junior Jose Martinez is the Pirates leading scoring this season with 13 goals and five assists. The forward believes the work Alameda put in even before the 2019 season began back in August is the reason for the success, along with the mentality.
“The effort that we have put into the game,” Martinez said when asked about how the Pirates have been successful. “We play like it could be our last game of our life. This isn’t a team, it’s more like a family.”
Alcocer has stressed to his players that they need to believe in themselves to continue their rise.
“On the field we are 11-versus-11, but if we have right mentality anything can happen,” Alcocer said. “They need to believe in themselves and trust themselves.”
While the wins have been nice, Alcocer remains focused on the big picture of the future his players after their high school careers are over.
“My goal is to have them go to college so they have a better future academically because that is the most important thing, soccer comes after that,” Alcocer said. “I want a better future for them.”