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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Gordon Begins Using His Head

El Camino Real junior, known for his accurate headers on soccer field, has turned his life around.

February 23, 2001|CHRIS SHAFFER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Three years ago, Michael Gordon struggled with life.

Now an El Camino Real junior on the City Section's most formidable soccer team, he once lacked confidence and direction. His social life was crumbling and he wasn't happy with himself.

His grades slipped and he was kicked off the soccer team for breaking team rules.

He no longer cared about school and his aspirations to attend college vanished.

Gordon's parents were going through a divorce and it was ruining him.

During his freshman year the crisis peaked and at the time Gordon didn't know if he was going to turn his life around or fall off the deep end.

Gordon and his mother went through some financial hardships and were forced to relocate from their Woodland Hills home.

Seeing his mom struggle and be unhappy hurt Gordon deeply. He decided to turn his life around, not just for himself, but to put some happiness in her life.

"Being depressed all the time wasn't working," he said. "I needed to try something new. I was tired of being a bum. I wanted to turn things around.

"I decided I wanted to take responsibility and be an adult. I didn't want to see my mom struggle any more. Every time she gets better, I get better."

Instead of sitting in the back of class and socializing, Gordon sits in the front row, pays attention, studies and his 3.5 grade-point average has earned a spot on the honor roll.

"I used to sit in the back and talk to friends," Gordon said. "It was like social hour. It wasn't school. It was another lunch hour. But I realized my friends aren't going to pay for my college. I realized soccer isn't going to be my ticket everywhere.

"Sometimes my friends make fun of me for sitting in the front, but that's why I have an A and they have a C."

Gordon's confidence has been restored and it's been reflected in his life. Also, his play is at an all-time high.

In his second season on varsity, Gordon has earned a starting position at defender for the Conquistadores.

"He has matured as a person, become a more skillful soccer player and a better academic student all within the span of two years," said Coach David Hussey of El Camino Real. "I've seen him grow as a person and the little things that once bothered him are no longer a factor.

"He has learned to prioritize the important things in his life and focuses on making himself and others better."

Gordon is best known as a hard tackler who is superb in the air, but this season he's added a new dimension to his game.

Because of his ability to strategically place balls with his head off throw-ins and corner kicks, the 6-foot, 180-pound Gordon has become one of El Camino Real's most dangerous weapons.

"His head is going to be a huge asset for him, but he has the whole package," said his club coach, Keith West. "He's probably one of the most technically sound players in high school. His commitment to training and to the game is paying off."

Gordon had a career-high three assists, all on headers, in the Conquistadores' 4-1 victory over Venice in the first round of playoffs.

"He's matured as a player this year," said goalkeeper Raul Calderon of El Camino Real. "He can read the game better now. I feel really confident with him [in front of me]. He's a solid player and he's consistent. Anything in the air is his."

A City championship would help complete Gordon's turnaround.

The Conquistadores lost in the semifinals to Gardena last season and are determined they are the best in the City this year.

El Camino Real needs three more victories to capture the title, beginning with today's quarterfinal match against San Fernando.

"As a team we'd be unsatisfied with being semifinalists or finalists," Gordon said. "Every time we walk on the field we have one goal, to be the best in the City and the region."

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