By Nate Abaurrea
The Central Coast has long been a soccer hotbed, so it might not be surprising that the fútbol scene in Salinas is getting a welcomed boost from some notable neighbors about 60 miles to the north.
The San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer have announced a new partnership with the Salinas Regional Soccer Complex, providing “infrastructural additions and official club branding at the Constitution Fields in Salinas.”
“The Salinas community is so passionate for the sport of soccer,” said Jared Shawlee, Earthquakes president. “I believe it’s critical that we support access to the game with infrastructure upgrades for the community. The Quakes are committed to growing the sport of soccer throughout Northern California and making sure the sport is accessible to the next generation.”
Financial constraints and various structural and social issues have often hindered player development, not only in Salinas but all around the United States. In the city of Salinas, a culture of pride and devotion surrounds the Beautiful Game, in the streets, fields and households.
Club officials expect that the link between San Jose and the Salinas Valley will only enhance the prospects of young players fighting for their footballing futures, guiding local players to professional contracts in the U.S. and Mexico.
To set the partnership in motion, the Quakes will be making a special in-person announcement during the “Earthquakes X Salinas Kickoff Party,” which will take place at 201 Main St. in Oldtown Salinas on Feb. 3, starting at 5 p.m.
The event will feature live music, giveaways and appearances by Quakes players and Salinas natives Emi Ochoa and Jerry Ayon.
Ochoa is a shining example of Salinas soccer talent, and the city’s growing connection with the sport in San Jose.
In a few quick years, the now 17-year-old goalkeeper went from his local youth club El Camino FC to the Earthquakes, with an important stop in between for the Santa Cruz Breakers. Ochoa ultimately became the second-youngest player to ever sign an MLS Homegrown contract in 2019, at 14 years and 191 days. He has been called into multiple camps for the youth national teams of both the United States and Mexico.
Ayon has also featured on the U.S. youth national team front, and hails from a certain Alisal High School, affectionately known by so many in the Salinas area as “El Nido De Fútbol,” or the Nest of Soccer.
The timing of this San Jose Earthquakes community investment in Salinas comes as USL Championship side Monterey Bay F.C. enters its second season of existence in the 2nd tier of American Soccer, improving its own infrastructure and continuing to offer more and more top local players the opportunity to ply their trade in the professional ranks.
Earthquakes Hall of Famers Frank Yallop and Ramiro Corrales also will be present at the “Earthquakes X Salinas Kickoff Party.” Yallop was a two-time MLS Cup-winning manager for San Jose, in 2001 and 2003, and is now in his second year as head coach for Monterey Bay F.C.
Corrales, a U.S. National Team veteran and one of the most decorated players in local history, playing professionally from 1995 to 2013, joined Yallop’s coaching staff in the inaugural season, and is now serving as the technical director for Monterey Bay F.C.
“Ramiro Corrales is a legendary figure in the Earthquakes organization,” said Shawlee. “He was our longtime team captain, someone who made an impact with not just our club, but the communities in San Jose and his hometown of Salinas. Ramiro helped pave the way for aspiring professionals who want to follow in his footsteps, including our up-and-coming goalkeeper Emi Ochoa.”
This Earthquakes-sponsored party in Salinas will come just one day before San Jose plays a friendly match versus Monterey Bay F.C. at Cardinale Stadium in Seaside.
“We’re looking forward to a great match in front of a great crowd,” Shawlee said. “It’s a rare occasion that our clubs will face one another, and we think it will be a great show for the community.”
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.
Tickets are available at https://www.montereybayfc.com/single-game-tickets/ .
Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.