The Pride of the Alisal A soccer coach and a star reflect on success

YOUTHBEAT | Stories by teen reporters

By José Romo

PODCAST | José Romo chats with coach Mark Cisneros about teaching, how the team learned to win and why it matters to Salinas residents:

When growing up in East Salinas, Enrique Montano enjoyed going to varsity soccer matches at Alisal High School, on a field where he would eventually excel.

“I saw how the crowd and players were so passionate about the sport,” Montano said. He made the varsity team as a freshman, and the team eventually won league titles by the time he was a senior.

He had a great team of players to back him up, but Montano also gives credit to his coach, Mark Cisneros, who he said taught his players patience, team spirit, and a whole new way of how to play the beautiful game of soccer.

“I’ve been playing soccer for 20 years now and Mark taught me how to be a more patient player,” Montano said. “He was also really good at motivating us every step of the way.”

Montano is now a defensive specialist for the Sacramento Republic of the United Soccer League, a Division II professional league, after playing college soccer at San Jose State University.

“The first day I got to Louisville I encountered snow
for the second time in my life.”
Division II soccer player and Salinas native Enrique Montano

Montano’s success is an example of Cisneros’s philosophy: play the game right, treat opponents with respect, and look ahead to a college education … and maybe a professional contract.

That philosophy leads to wins and titles. “If I remember correctly we won the league all four years I was there,” Montano said. “The most memorable year … was my junior year. That year we won the first ever soccer CCS state title.”

Cisneros said he is proud that Trojan soccer conveys a positive image to East Salinas, a community that has developed a negative image because of perceived issues with crime and violence. Soccer successes can instill pride in the community, and the Alisal team represents the neighborhood throughout the state.

Winning championships “is a great accomplishment for everyone involved,” Montano said. “When I say everyone involved, I mean coaches, school staff, parents, students janitors, and the city.”

The Trojans’ success can be traced to a strong sense of unity among teammates and its sportsmanship, the coach said. Montano said Cisneros keeps his teams motivated and connected. He promoted the type of team unity and a high level of team chemistry, Montano said.

And while the Trojans are up against tough competition in a tough sport, Cisneros said he is proud of his team’s sportsmanship and discipline. Last season, his team won the league’s sportsmanship award for play during the regular season. “In the last two or three seasons we’ve had one red and about 7 or 8 yellows,” Cisneros said, referring to the cards players receive for penalties and foul play.

Raised in East L.A., Cisneros pursued his education at Cal State Fullerton, and he earned master’s degree in English from Cal State Los Angeles. He has been a high school teacher for 17 years, and currently works as an English teacher at Alisal High.

Cisneros said he coaches his team with tactical methods used by Ajax and FC Barcelona, two well-known professional teams with lots of experience raising important trophies. Cisneros said a key to his success is his ability to compromise. He says he allows players to be individuals on the field, including the goalie, and coaches to their strengths.

Montano is among the Trojan players who used his soccer experience in college and in professional soccer. After his career at San Jose State ended, he played two years with Louisville FC before moving to Sacramento.

“It was a great change for me since I had lived in California,” Montano said. “The first day I got (to Louisville) in February 2015 I encountered snow for the second time in my life. The first two months we trained indoors because there was so much snow out. The city fans and team were all amazing.”

“Sac Republic is a great club, one of the best in the USL since they started five years ago,” Montano said. “Being close to home is great for me since my parents get to visit me and vice versa. The stadium has a great atmosphere, which is nice to have because not a lot of teams have that type of support.”

José Romo participated in the 2017 Monterey County Youth Media Project, for which he wrote this article.

Listen to José talk about writing this piece:

About Jose Romo

Jose Romo is a 15-year-old sophomore at Everett Alvarez High School.