The Desert Vista boys soccer team is staying home for the holidays.
The team usually heads to California each Christmas break. But with a young team, coach Mike Rabasca decided not to go this season, and the Thunder were not invited to the inaugural Arizona Soccer Showcase, which got under way Tuesday, in Scottsdale.
The reason for the trip to California was about team bonding more than winning matches so the team will try and accomplish the same feat at home.
To do so Rabasca is going to start their days at 5 a.m. with activities like splitting the team in two and have them put together soccer goals without instructions.
It is not about just seeing how fast it can be done, because Rabasca will also videotape the session. That way, they can see how they interact and communicate with one another.
"I've gone through the exercise of videotaping me on the sidelines and I don't even recognize me sometimes," Rabasca said. "I didn't remember saying some of the things or the intonation I used. Videotape is condemning."
They will have two sessions a day and will also help clean up campus as part of the team building exercises.
"It is going to be a little bit different for us, but we have plenty of time," Rabasca said.
Rabasca, who doesn't let his players talk to the media until the postseason, said standout player Cesar Sandoval will play a big part in the team building process.
The senior center midfielder has been a force on the field, scoring the game winner in overtime in the first meeting against Mountain Pointe and assisting on a corner kick for the only goal in the second win over the Pride, but Sandoval is struggling to get noticed by college coaches.
He was named All-Tempe City and All-Fiesta Region last year, and ESPN's high school website pegged him as preseason all-state selection.
"He has not got a lot of interest from colleges and he should," Rabasca said. "He is a good enough player (to play) at the Division II level or even a smaller Division I program."
There are improvements that still need to be made, but Rabasca has been pleased with Sandoval's progress.
"He is a good player he just needs to do a little more thinking in the moment," Rabasca said. "He makes good decisions, but if he thought ahead and calmed down at times, he would make better decisions."
Mountain Pointe coach Bryan Sabato also coaches Sandoval as both are involved with the Arsenal program in the Gilbert Soccer Club.
"He is a little undersized, but what college coaches are missing on is that fact that he is going to come in and make their program a whole lot better," said Sabato, adding that he feels like Sandoval makes up for any lack of size with so many other attributes.
"He plays with a chip on his shoulder, which I think is good and I wish I had a few Cesars on my team," Sabato said after the Pride lost 1-0 last week to the Thunder. "He has a tremendous work rate and I've seen his technical skills improve dramatically over the last year-and-a-half."
With the young team off to a 6-2 start heading into the break, the Thunder have already made strides and part of that is Sandoval's leadership.
"He has always had strong leaders around him to give him good examples," Rabasca said. "He leads more with the physical part and he is not all that verbal. What he is very good at is being inclusive. He brings other players into a leadership role with him. He will definitely be important in our team building this week."
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