Irving Arvizu shows that playing soccer in high school remains a path to success – Los Angeles Times
Watching Irving Arvizu move his feet back and forth during a soccer drill offers a little peek into the elite qualities he possesses. He’s a sturdy 6-feet-1, 170 pounds but quickly picks up speed like pushing the pedal to the metal of a sports car.
“He’s a thoroughbred,” L.A. Cathedral Coach Arturo Lopez said. “His athleticism is what separates him.”
In an era when many of Southern California’s top soccer players have abandoned the high school ranks for USA Soccer-sponsored leagues, Arvizu has shown that “old school” still works. He has a scholarship waiting for him at Cal State Fullerton, and he earned it by playing high school and club soccer.
“There was something about high school soccer,” he said. “It was worth more to fight for. I had something to play for — the crowd, the students.”
Soccer has become a big deal at Cathedral. The team has moved up from Division 3 to Division 1 this season, a testament to the development of a program that’s won a Division 3 title and a state regional title during Arvizu’s run.
Arvizu dreams of playing professionally, and he thinks his hard work and dedication can lead to success.
“I’m self-motivated,” he said.
That explains why he rises at 6 a.m. from his home in Azusa, boards the Gold Line to Chinatown, then takes a bus to Cathedral. The new Gold Line extension is a block from his house. Before it opened, his mother was driving him in traffic.
He has been playing soccer since he was 4. His mother and father came from Mexico, and soccer is a family passion.
“I think soccer was just born into my blood,” he said. “If I’m not playing soccer, I’m watching it on the weekend.”
He’s an attacker midfielder who had 11 goals last season, and his goals usually come in the biggest games at the most critical moments.
“Once you play against me, it will show what I can do,” he said. “I don’t like losing. I’ll do whatever it takes to have my team come out on top, whether that means me making a game-winner or me giving up the ball. Whatever it takes.”
His mother, Lucy, is usually in the bleachers screaming his name. During a game against rival Salesian, Arvizu could hear her yelling in Spanish, “Dale, Irving.” It means “let’s do it.”
His ball control skills are terrific, and his size and athleticism present a challenge for opponents. But it’s his passion that’s hard to duplicate.
At home, instead of a normal piggy bank, he has one molded into a soccer ball. He used to wear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-like goggles as a freshman to help with his eyesight until he got contact lenses. He has a couple of soccer dances in his repertoire to celebrate after a goal, though some are not allowed in high school.
His English teacher sent a note to his coach about how much she admired Arvizu for his class participation and helping others.
“It’s special when you have a kid committed and believing in the program,” Lopez said. “It shows Academy isn’t the only way to get a college scholarship.”
Division 1 soccer should be better than ever, since most of the Southern Section’s top boys’ teams have been placed there under a new playoff formula. Anaheim Servite and Los Angeles Loyola are among the many teams to watch.
In Division 1 girls, Tesoro, Santa Margarita and Aliso Niguel will have strong teams.
In the City Section, there’s been a similar change in placing teams based on ability instead of enrollment. That means Canoga Park is joining El Camino Real, Birmingham, Granada Hills and Palisades in Division I boys.
In girls, the City player of the year, Jennifer Veliz, returns for Taft, and sophomore standout Sydney Hopkins is back for El Camino Real. Also returning is Mayela Medina, who has scored 94 goals in three seasons for Harbor Teacher.