What does it take to become an All-American goalkeeper in high school soccer?
It helps if you:
- First got serious about the game as a sandlot player in Jerusalem.
- Later played in American Youth Soccer Organization leagues and then for such successful clubs as Real Madrid of Santa Monica and Palisades-FRAM.
- Were chosen for the prestigious California and Western Regional Select teams of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
- Are a 6-1, 175-pound high school senior and have a 3.7 grade point average (in a 4-point system). Have received letters from about 30 universities that would like to have you as a player, including Stanford, Connecticut, UCLA, Nevada-Las Vegas and most of the Ivy League universities.
- Are the son of a physician who is a liver specialist on the staffs of the Santa Monica Hospital and UCLA medical centers and took a sabbatical in Israel when you were in the sixth grade.
- Started high school at Crossroads School, where you played both soccer and basketball. Decided to concentrate on soccer and transferred to Santa Monica High School, which has a strong soccer program and finished third in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs last year.
- Refined your game at Santa Monica High under Coach Jose Lopez, who played for three UCLA teams that went to NCAA finals. The same Lopez, who was a top midfielder for the Los Angeles Aztecs in their 1974 championship year, played against the legendary Pele and held him scoreless several times.
- Are not only "big, quick, agile and intelligent in the goal," as the team guidebook says, but also do "a good job of directing (the) defense."
- Tied a Bay League record last year with seven shutouts in one season, giving up only five goals in 12 league games, with an overall goals-against average of .92. Have a goals-against average of .88 in 17 games this season, when the team switched to the Ocean League.
- Have a support group that includes father Leonard, mother Michelle, 18-year old sister Liz (a UCLA freshman) and 7-year-old brother Jessie, a budding soccer player who shows up at your games wearing his game jersey.
It helps if you have all of the above going for you and believe as 17-year old Santa Monica High's All-American goalie Jonah Goldstein does:
"That box (the goalie's cage) is your home and you're not supposed to allow anyone come in there and invade it."
Lopez, in his 13th year as Santa Monica's head coach, said the National Soccer Coaches Assn., which selected Goldstein as an All-American, has nominators in various sections of the nation. He said that when he called the Southern California nominator to suggest Goldstein as a candidate he didn't have to promote his player much.
The nominator "already knew about him," Lopez said, "and it felt good raving because I didn't have to make the first contact."
"I've had some super goalkeepers at Santa Monica," said the 35-year-old coach. He rattled off the names of former Viking goalies Eddie Austin, who played later at UCLA; Mike Page, who played for Cal State Los Angeles and has been playing professionally with the Hollywood Kickers, and Larry Draluck, another top Cal State Los Angeles goalie who was a member of the 1981 squad that was an NCAA Division II finalist.
That trio may have been super, but Lopez said that Jonah "is better at this stage than they were."
Goldstein is a top athlete, adept at catching or deflecting high-velocity kicks or headers aimed at the cage he calls home. He also calls signals for the rest of the defense.
He directs his defenders in much the same way a cop directs traffic, telling them where they should position themselves to stopany opponent bent on scoring. And he is about as bashful as a Marine Corps drill instructor when he tells his defenders where to go.
"If he doesn't talk, he's going to give up goals," Lopez said, "and he can't talk nicely. He has to raise his voice because the players are concentrating so hard on the game.
"One thing he has to do, is to keep the people in front of him organized."
He also has to be adept at kicking, whether drop kicking the ball for distance or punting it for accuracy, trying to deliver it in a spot where one of his midfielders or forwards can either launch an attack or a shot on goal. After his teammates have finished with practice, Goldstein often takes a bag of balls on the field and gets off about 50 or 60 kicks.
"The first guy who starts the attack is the goalkeeper," Lopez said. And once an opponent scores, the goalie has to distribute the ball quickly for a counterattack, he added.
But Goldstein would just as soon never give up a goal, regarding each one he surrenders as "a personal defeat. It doesn't matter whether the ball got by the other 10 people. Every goal is your fault."
There is a lot of pressure on a goalie, but Goldstein said he enjoys the stress, although "it gets hard sometimes. It's the nature of the position, so you have to deal with it."