There are a lot of new faces in the Cal State Dominguez Hills soccer program, but the one face everyone keeps seeing is Marine Cano's.
The former goalie for the Los Angeles Skyhawks and the Cleveland Cobras in the American Soccer League and the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League is doing double duty as coach of the men's and women's teams at Dominguez Hills. He figures nobody ever said it would be easy.
Cano joined the Toros staff last year as women's coach and agreed to take over the men's team after Coach Jeff Friedman was involved in a serious auto accident and resigned.
Friedman had developed a strong program but only five players return this season and Cano faces a rebuilding process in the tough California Collegiate Athletic Assn. He says the team will be somewhat different than past Toro squads and will be tailored to the talent.
Injuries Last Season
Cano knows about building from the bottom. He started the women's program last season with a goal of "making it through the year," and he made it. Barely.
The team began with 12 players and had eight healthy bodies by the end of the season. This year there are 14 players and some competition for starting spots.
Both teams debut this weekend in the Cal Poly Pomona Tournament. The men open Sunday against San Francisco State, then face Cal State Hayward on Monday and Sonoma State on Tuesday. The women open Sunday against Hayward, then play powerful Santa Clara on Monday and San Francisco State on Tuesday.
The men will depend on forward David Trifonovitch, the team's leading scorer as a junior, and Sean Quinn in goal. Both were all-league last year and are coming back from injuries. Trifonovitch, who had 11 goals and 6 assists for last year's 9-9 team, is coming off calf surgery but scored a goal in a scrimmage against UC Irvine over the weekend. "We'll be twice as good when he's 100%," Cano said. "He's my main man up front."
Quinn, who has recorded 15 shutouts and a 1.58 goals-against average for three years, has had knee and wrist injuries but is playing. "He needs to improve and get back into shape," Cano said. "He's probably not 50% yet."
Other returners are Scott Donnelly, a key back on defense, midfielder Ed Sanchez, tabbed the team's playmaker, and Brad Thomas, who plays nearly every position. Cano dubbed him "our utility man."
"I expected more (to return) and when they didn't I had to go out and recruit," Cano said. "We got a base of some junior college transfers but a lot of freshmen. It's very blue-collar--the guys are out there fighting for a spot."
Newcomers expected to make an impact are forward Jose Didasco; Orange Coast College transfer Glen Strachan, a midfielder; El Camino College transfer James McConnachie, a back, and Culver City High back/midfielder Manny Rubio.
Didasco is playing despite a congenital heart irregularity and was cleared just this week to play. Once Didasco in shape, Cano expects him to help the attack. "He's quick and he's got a good foot," he said.
Cano calls the 5-3, 130-pound Strachan "my pocket rocket--he hustles constantly." McConnachie is expected to score and Rubio may have star potential. Cano said the 130-pound freshman, who helped Culver City to the CIF finals last year, "has a lot of fire. He runs all day and he's very skillful. Every game he's getting better and better."
Cano's assistant on the men's team is Randy Hanson, who played for two seasons at Dominguez Hills. He served as interim coach last year after Friedman's accident and is facilities supervisor for the athletic department.
The Toros' biggest problem may be growing up in the CCAA while still getting to know each other. Cano tabs defending champ Cal State Northridge the heavy favorite, with a challenge from Cal Poly Pomona.
"I look at us as a real dark horse," Cano said. "But I like that disadvantage. We can only go up."
Women Have Tough Schedule
That goes double for Cano and the Lady Toros, who did remarkably well to go 2-9-2 with a skeleton crew last year. This season the schedule is chock-full of Division I opponents. "We've come a long way but we've got a long way to go," Cano said. "That's why I put this schedule together. I want us to be up with the best teams on the West Coast in a few years."
Goalkeeper Sandra Powers earned all-district recognition last year, but Cano brought in recruit Melanie Cooper from Orange Coast College and said the competition has raised Powers' game to a new level. "Sandra's been unbelievable in practice. We'll be strong in goal this year. As an ex-goalie I like that," Cano said.
Also returning are backs Rena Wright, a track All-American who is captain, Nancy Grgas and midfielder Lisa Stone.