1 Liverpool defender Joe Gomez’s impact since arriving at the club has been praised by manager Brendan Rodgers.The 18-year-old, signed from Charlton for £3.5million this summer, was expected to go out on loan but, having done well in pre-season, was handed his Premier League debut last weekend.“For a player of 18 to make his Premier League debut away at Stoke against an outstanding player in Jon Walters, with the experience he has, and cope as well as he did was impressive,” Rodgers said.“I thanked Jon after the game for giving him that experience and he spoke highly of him.”Gomez is ostensibly a centre-back who has also played right full back, but has started his Liverpool career at left-back.“I felt comfortable (putting him in the team) as he had played games and was managed well at Charlton,” Rodgers added.“I wanted to assess where his pathway lay in terms of whether he needed a loan or needed to stay here and very quickly he showed me he could be a really important member of the squad.“He can play in many positions, centre-half being the main one, but he has the flexibility and qualities to play at full-back so he is definitely a player who will add great value to our squad.“What struck me when I met him was his maturity. He recognises his opportunity.“When he was 15 or 16 he had the chance to move to bigger clubs than Charlton but he wanted to stay.“He then had a decision to make in the summer with a number of high-profile clubs wanted to take him but he felt his best opportunity to develop and improve was coming to Liverpool.“He has got into the team and I am sure there will be moments along the way when we need to manage him, but he knows there is a lot to learn yet.“It is about assessing and managing where he is at.” Liverpool’s Joe Gomez
Best team: La Mirada. Coach Dennis Guerra wants to be back on top after coming in second last season. He has the team to do it with four-year starters Amanda Martinez and Dani Castro as well as three-year starters Carly Cram, Julie Reich and Katie Smith. “We have high expectations for ourselves. The girls we brought into the squad are all quality girls,” said Guerra. Cerritos figures to have a strong team that could possibly challenge Mayfair or La Mirada. Bellflower will likely finish behind Cerritos followed by Glenn, Artesia and Norwalk. Best game: Mayfair at La Mirada, Jan. 30, 5 p.m. La Mirada brings a very experienced team returning a full squad with the exception of one player. Mayfair, however, can’t say the same. The loss of defender Cassie McKay and goalie Lisa Miramontes is tough for the defending champs. But Mayfair newcomers Monique Cisneros, Loren Hammer and goalie Danielle deSeriere should keep them in contention. “We’re hoping to win league again,” said coach Sal Marroquin. “We have a young team. We will continue to improve and hope the rest of it works out by itself.” SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE Best team: Downey. Coach Julie Attias has a strong team in Kathy Orellana, the league co-MVP last season with 28 goals, and four-year varsity starter Jennifer Powell. She also has a sense of urgency considering she will leave coaching after this season to raise her young daughter. “I have to win it all,” said Attias, whose last outright league title came three years ago. “We’re willing to share, as long as we get No. 1 in CIF, I’m happy.” Best game: Downey at Warren, Jan. 26, 3 p.m. These rivals will be fighting for the league crown again this year. Warren lost a few players, but has more than enough weaponry in Lily Salazar, Roxy Correra and keeper Kristin Borzi. “We still have a lot of talent on the team. I hope to win league again,” said coach Terese Duffy. The rest: Both Paramount and Lynwood figure to be in the mix this season. Both have solid teams and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they vie for one of the top spots in the league. OTHER LEAGUES Los Alamitos is off to another good start in defense of its Sunset League crown. Though six players — including the entire four-player backline — graduated and immediately went on to Division I programs, shed no tears for coach Pat Rossi. He still has scoring machine Sophia Medina (13 goals, 19 assists) to use her speed and skill to dominate games, and the new backline is solid in front of goalie Tori Rocke, who started on last season’s world-beaters. At Valley Christian, much of the defense graduated, but most of the offense remains. Though Tiana Torp spent much of December fighting through a leg injury, she and junior Ashley Haagsma form an enviable pair up front that combined for 31 goals and 22 assists last season. Midfielder Lauren Hernandez has been a Crusader stalwart for years, and while they lost early ground in the Olympic League race with Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Brentwood, the Crusaders can still expect to be a force come playoff time. With only one senior playing a major role, last season’s St. Joseph team was in position for a Serra League title or runner-up finish before faltering down the stretch and falling in the playoffs at Los Alamitos. Now a year older, a year wiser, senior and Oregon State-commit Natalie Farah leads a solid team, helped by juniors Caitlin Luna and Gabby De La Torre. Playing in the tough Serra League means the Jesters cannot ignore any opponent, but if last year has taught them focus, they can again reach the playoffs, except with a higher seed this time. “It’s definitely a more veteran team than last year,” Jesters coach Eddie Perez said. “Now they have experience playing in tough games.” L.A. CITY SECTION Yes, San Pedro suffered its first Marine League losses in recent memory last season. But the Pirates should once again be able to hold off Banning and the rest to take the league title. It remains to be seen if they will return to book their customary spot in the City semifinals. :Matt Zimmerman can be reached at [email protected] or (562) 499-1338. Daniel Frias can be reached at [email protected] or (562) 499-1338. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita “We just have good, solid all-around players that can get the job done,” said Wilson coach Jason Kirkwood, whose team is seeking a fifth consecutive league crown. “We have a really good mix that will make us extremely competitive this year and the next two years.” Best game: Millikan at Wilson, Jan. 23, 3 p.m. The first meeting was a close one, with Wilson winning 1-0 at Millikan. With scorers such as senior Nicole Montoya and junior Kerrin Stephan, and defenders Stephanie Pimentel and Nikki Brannigan, the Rams have the talent to challenge for the league title. The only issue is that Wilson just has more of it. And the rest: While this is likely the year that Millikan passes Poly for second place, the young Jackrabbits may also have trouble holding off Lakewood for third. The Lancers won the first meeting between the schools 1-0, and have a roster heavy in underclassmen with junior Brooke Ehinger leading the way. Even if they fall to fourth, the Jackrabbits should still have little trouble qualifying for the playoffs. The new CIF-SS rule that seven-team leagues now have four automatic postseason berths ensures that. Though Cabrillo has the talent to make some noise, it would be too much to ask of the Jaguars to make the playoffs at this point. As usual, Jordan and Compton are simply spoilers for the top teams. SUBURBAN LEAGUE One thing is clear: It is very likely at least one local girls team will play at either Downey or Warren high schools, co-hosts of this season’s CIF-SS championships. MOORE LEAGUE Best team: Wilson. It’s not that the Bruins haven’t been pushed in recent seasons. They have turned back challenges from Poly, were beaten by Lakewood two seasons ago, and edged Millikan 1-0 in last season’s finale to stay undefeated in the league. But that’s the key: They have learned to deal with every challenge, and have an excellent group of seniors to lead the way, including forward/midfielders Erin Doherty (16 goals, six assists last season) and Natalie Moreno (six goals, 20 assists). Add the return of seniors Kacey Doherty and Kristina Walowski from injury, and the Bruins are potent enough offensively to once again take the league. Junior goalie Kaitlyn Gustaves provides the steady play of a three-year starter, and has the ideal size to dominate her position. The Bruins’ only issues are twofold: They must overcome the most uncontrollable aspect of sports and stay healthy, and they have to prove they can beat the best in the playoffs. The spotlight shone on area teams last season, as two teams won CIF Southern Section championships in girls soccer. And while Division I champion Los Alamitos and Valley Christian, Division V co-champ, each suffered significant losses to graduation, they each have plenty of returning talent that could well have them in title position again. Yet, neither has the level of young yet experienced talent that Mayfair can field in its quest for its first CIF-SS crown since 2000.