Building the Cougars from the ground up
The 2019 Gervais High School boys soccer team is going to be young. Fortunately, that's where the program's new head coach, Martin Maldonado, Jr., has built the foundation of his coaching experience over the past decade.
A youth soccer coach through the United PDX club out of Beaverton, Maldonado started a local chapter of the club in Gervais a year ago. After opening with two teams in 2018, his club has since ballooned to 12 teams this year as he is eager to take advantage of the appetite for youth soccer in the region.
"We definitely made some noise, we're doing some good things and parents are liking what we're offering," Maldonado said. "Monday through Friday, if you look over at Gervais High School there's a bunch of kids playing soccer."
Maldonado graduated from Woodburn High School in 2007 as part of the team highlighted in Steve Wilson's book "The Boys from Little Mexico," which chronicled the Bulldogs' pursuit of a then-unrealized state championship.
Since then, he has built his experience coaching at the youth level, coaching for the Westside Timbers, Timbers RTC and United PDX, crediting his coaching development to local veterans such as Jimmy Velasco and Scott Stanton.
"They took me under their wing and taught me what they know," Maldonado said. "To this day, it's been one of the coolest things I've ever done. It's just opened the doors a lot, to travel and meet good people."
While the high school level differs from youth club soccer, the core principles remain the same, and Maldonado is eager to help use the latter to build the former.
"The next couple of years are going to be very exciting to see these kids move up the ranks," Maldonado said.
The Cougars graduated seven players from last year's team, and two more expected starters transferred to Woodburn in the offseason, leaving Maldando with a relatively young roster to build from coming into the fall season.
Since being hired in June, he has been working with a group of players consisting mostly of incoming freshmen and a few holdovers from last year's team, getting them ready for the coming season.
"Our conference isn't that easy," Maldonado said. "From the get-go we don't have preseason. We come straight into league."
A disciple of possession-based soccer, Maldando wants to continue the system built by former coach Juan Flores, Jr., who implemented a pass-first system in 2016 that led to back-to-back league tournament championships, a league title in 2016 and two straight state playoff appearances.
'We're going to keep the identity of what he's created. They started it, and I just want to keep it going," Maldonado said. "All my teams have that work ethic — trying hard, playing hard, but at the same time we're keeping the ball, we have possession and we're disciplined."
And while he preaches academics at the club level, that side of coaching student-athletes becomes much more important as a high school coach, where grades goes hand in hand with opportunities on the pitch.
"That's one of the things we preach in our program at club is grades," Maldonado said. "In school, the grades matter. They get a reminder from us every day — our coaches are instilling that now — how are your grades?"
Maldonado is excited for the future of Gervais soccer. With the youth program he's built over the past two summers, he's hoping to build a pipeline from the club level to the high school team where the incoming players have the numbers and skill to compete at the varsity level from the moment they step on the field.
"By me instilling the youth program, we'll definitely help out in the future where our numbers will just increase," Maldonado said. " If we can get these kids playing throughout the state at a high level at a very young age, it should be easier for us at the high school level to dominate."
Gervais Boys Soccer
Over the past 10 years, the Gervais boys soccer team has seen three head coaches combine for five winning seasons, three state playoff appearances, two league tournament wins and one league title.
Coach Juan Flores, Jr.
2018: 7-7-1 (7-6-1), no playoffs
2017: 9-7-1 (6-5-1), first round
Coach Juan Fores, Sr.
2016*: 13-4-0 (10-2-0), quarterfinals
2015: 3-7-4 (2-6-4), no playoffs
2014: 7-4-3 (6-3-3), no playoffs
2013: 5-4-5 (4-1-3), first round
2012: 6-4-2 (4-1-1), no playoffs
Coach Eve Castro
2011: 4-8-2 (3-4-1), no playoffs
2010: 3-8-2 (2-4-2), no playoffs
2009: 3-11-0 (3-6-0), no playoffs
* Special District 2 champions
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