Espinoza relishes challenges of restarting soccer at Gavilan
Gilroy – Jorge Espinoza’s life has been full of challenges.
There was the time he started an indoor soccer team in Mexico from scratch. There was the time when he moved to Chicago from his native Chile and didn’t know a word of English. There was the time when he came back from surgery on both of his knees to continue his playing career.
Gavilan College athletic director Ron Hannon knows all about Espinoza and is quite pleased to have him on staff. But he believes Espinoza’s greatest challenge lies ahead — rebuilding the women’s soccer program.
Hannon takes a realistic approach. He knew for certain the Rams would not open the season Monday as they were scheduled. He knows there’s a good chance Gavilan will not field a soccer team this year.
Espinoza, however, is optimistic the Rams will not only have a team, but they will be competitive. It’s hard to argue with Espinoza based on his track record.
“We already have seven or eight players, so all we need is to find six or seven more,” Espinoza said. “I believe we will. I’ve been on campus and people are talking. I’ve been recruiting in the San Jose and South Valley area. I tell them to go to school, have fun and learn.”
Espinoza knows the South Valley area, with its ethnic diversity, is a hotbed for soccer. He believes he could be successful just getting athletes from area schools. At this point, he is trying to get the numbers.
“By the end of the week, we’ll start practicing,” Espinoza said. “We have everyone moving forward with the system. Of course, there is the challenge of getting enough players. I love challenges. I don’t like to take anything easy. We have a goal and a direction. My challenge is to bring in 14, 15 players and play.”
Espinoza, 53, played professionally in Chile, competing in the Pan American Games in 1976. He played in Chile until 1979 when he signed with the Chicago Sting in the old American Soccer League. After three years as a defender, he played indoors for 10 years, retiring at age 40 after he had come back twice from injury.
He moved to San Jose in 1998 and coached professionally with the Clash for three years. He spent another year as assistant coach for the New England Revolution and then moved back to San Jose and opened the Jesa Soccer Academy His boys under 13, 14 and 15 teams won state titles, he proudly pointed out.
Espinoza, who has been married to Monica Espinoza for 29 years, has sons Jorge and Chris and two granddaughters.
Gavilan, coached by Marty Behler for the last three years, started last season with 11 players. One quit early in the season so the Rams didn’t have enough to even field a full team. Conference rules stipulate that a team may compete with eight players. Gavilan made it through approximately half the season before the team was disbanded.
“We were behind the 8-ball almost immediately,” Hannon said. “From a professional standpoint, you don’t want to see a team not make it through the season. Personally, I considered it a failure because what we are trying to do is build a successful program.”
Hannon met Espinoza four years ago, and “I actually tried to hire him.” But the timing and terms weren’t right.
After last season, Hannon immediately thought of Espinoza when the women’s soccer position became open. He contacted Espinoza in the spring. This time Espinoza suggested they get together, that the timing might be right.
“It was a blessing in disguise that he was available,” Hannon said. “His experience and knowledge in the game of soccer goes way back. He’s coached national, collegiate and high school level teams.
“It’s like a soccer bomb dropped in our lap. His ability, his knowledge and the depth of what he does on the field can only help our program. It’s a challenge in taking a program at the ground level and to be able to resurrect it, to make it viable.
“We have to be patient since he needs the time to do it right.”
Espinoza’s timetable is more optimistic. Give him the numbers, he says, and he will do it right immediately.