San Jose, Calif. - San Jose State University men’s soccer head coach Gary St. Clair has announced the addition to his program of seven newcomers for the 2009 season.
The group includes a trio of 2009 National Letter of Intent signees from Northern California high schools in Ricky Martin, Dylan Murphy and Christian Romero, as well as goalkeeper Jonathan Lester, a Division I transfer from Southern Methodist University, and Nick Murphy, the older brother of Dylan. Lester and Nick Murphy are enrolled at San Jose State for the current semester, and participating in spring training with the Spartans.
“As a group, we knew this was going to be a small class,” says San Jose State head coach Gary St. Clair. “We had a big class the past two years. We’ve got high numbers. We’ve got good, young players in this program that need to play. We recruited for three very specific roles, and those were central defender, holding midfielder, and an outside right back that can play left back as well. We were looking for specific things. Next year will be a slightly larger recruiting class, but overall, I would say that this one ranks right up there with the last two we’ve had. We’ve put together three good recruiting classes in a row now.
“What separates this class from the other two is the size. It’s always better to have three good players coming in than seven average players, so we’re very pleased with the three players. This goes through a cycle, and right now, we have a ton of very good players. We had a lot of guys that played for us last year that did not start, but filled in for the seniors, so a number of them have a lot of good experience. These (three new) guys have the ability to start pretty quick. You never know. It could take a semester, or a year, or they may start really soon, but at some point within that time frame, I would expect each of them to be making a case to start.”
Martin is a center back and native of Rodeo, Calif. He is in his senior season at Hercules (Calif.) High School as a fourth-year member of the varsity squad. As a junior, he captained Hercules to its first North Coast Section playoff appearance, earning first-team all-league and team Most Valuable Player honors. He was also a first-team all-league pick as a sophomore.
Martin plays his club soccer for 2007 and 2008 Surf Cup champion Marin FC. He was on the Cal-North 91B state Olympic Development Program (ODP) team for three years, making the travel squad, and was also a Region IV 91B pool player twice in 2004 and 2006.
“I would describe Ricky Martin as a very steady and solid central defender,” says St. Clair. “He reads the game extremely well. He’s got very good size. He certainly is going to fill out a little bit when he gets here, but I think he has an excellent defending mind, and that really is the characteristic that I’m looking for in a central defender. He’s good in the air, and he’s good on the ground. His demeanor is excellent for that position. He’s calm. He doesn’t get rattled. I think that he’s going to be an excellent player for us in a difficult position to find out there.”
Dylan Murphy is an attacking central midfielder who hails from San Francisco, Calif., and is currently attending Lowell High School. He plays his club soccer for Marin FC 91, Surf Cup champions in 2007 and 2008, and a finalist at the US Club Soccer regional tournament in 2008. Murphy played on the Cal-North state ODP team for three years from 2005-08, at times with Ricky Martin. A finalist at the ODP regional tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2006, he attended the Super Y-League ODP National Camp that same year, before being chosen for the ODP Region IV pool in 2007. Murphy was previously a State Cup finalist with San Francisco Chivas at the U14 level in 2004.
“Dylan Murphy is a big boy,” remarks St. Clair. “He is an attacking midfielder. He can play pretty much anywhere in the midfield. He gives us very good size. One of the things that we wanted to do with our recruiting class this year was to get some good size. With Dylan, as well as Ricky (Martin), we got two players who are both over six feet, and that gives us some strength in different parts of the field. I think he’s a very good attacking player as well. He and Ricky both played on the Northern California state team, so they have excellent club and ODP experience.”
Romero, who can play on defense as well as all parts of the midfield, is currently a senior at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, Calif., where he was a first-team all-league selection as both a sophomore and a senior. He plays for San Juan Soccer Club, and has been a team captain for multiple years, a Surf Cup winner in 2008 and a Las Vegas Mayors Cup champion as a club player. Romero was the only Northern California product to be named to the National Super Y-League Team a year ago, and was a US Club Soccer id2 National Training Camp pool player at the age of 14.
“Christian is probably the most versatile of the group,” says St. Clair. “He can play for us as a holding midfielder, or as an outside back. He’s very athletic. On his club team, he plays as a central defender. I don’t see him playing there in college, but probably his best attribute, besides his versatility, is he closes down the ball extremely well, and really steps up and puts pressure on the ball. I can see him in a number of different positions. He’s just a real good soccer player all-around, and will be able to play a number of roles for us.”
Lester spent the 2008 season at SMU in Dallas, Texas, appearing in one game for the Mustangs in his second year with them after redshirting in 2007. He made his collegiate debut on October 12, 2008, playing the final 10:17 of a 5-1 home victory over Central Arkansas. SMU went 10-6-2 and had its season end in round one of the Conference USA Tournament.
Lester, a native of Forth Worth, Texas, previously was a four-year letterwinner at Crowley (Texas) High School. Coming out of Crowley, he was listed among the nation’s Top 100 Recruits by TopDrawerSoccer.com. Lester was a team captain and four-time all-district selection there, and was named to the all-region and all-state teams while helping Crowley to a pair of district titles. He had 49.5 career shutouts and posted a 0.50 goals-against-average over his junior and senior seasons. Lester also was a standout in football and track and field.
As a club player, Lester was the starting goalkeeper for DFW Tejanos Soccer Club. He was a member of the ODP Region III team from 2004-06, and the North Texas ’89 ODP state team from 2003-06.
“Jonathan certainly gives us one thing immediately in goal that we have not had for a while, and that is size and physical presence,” comments St. Clair. “He’s another big boy. His strength really is his command of his (penalty) box. He’s got excellent presence in his box. He is somebody that is going to do the things that goalkeepers need to do. They need to be able to control their box. They obviously need to be able to block shots, but they also need to be able to come off their line, make good decisions and execute them. It gets crowded, and it gets pretty physical off a goalkeeper’s line. We’re looking for him to really come in and compete with our returning goalkeepers. I really like the addition of Jonathan.”
Nick Murphy, a central midfielder, took two years off after graduating in 2006 from Lowell High School in San Francisco, Calif. He played on the VFL Osnabruck U19 squad in Osnabruck, Germany, his first year following his prep career, and later trained and played with the U20 sides of Santos FC, Portuguesa Londrinense and Santo Andre FC during a five-month stay in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Murphy played on the Cal-North state ODP team from the U15 to U17 levels with current Spartan Efrain Burgos, Jr., and made the Far West Regional team for U16, earning the right to play in the Disney Showcase and at interregionals.
The elder Murphy’s previous club experience includes a stint with San Francisco Inter, with whom he was a State Cup finalist at U14 and a regional semifinalist that same year, and a three-time State Cup semifinalist in all. He also played for the San Francisco Glens, two-time San Francisco Premier League finalists. In the game of futsal, the three-time Cal-North State Cup winner has been a member of two winning sides at nationals, once with Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF), and once with JC Chivas, also finishing second at the tournament twice with the former.
“Nick graduated in 2006, so he is an older freshman,” remarks St. Clair. “He played on a very good club team in San Francisco. He is a very technical and versatile player. He can play in midfield for us, he can hold the ball, and he may even be able to play on the back line, but my thought is, like most of the players we have recruited recently, he gives us strength up the spine of our team, which is very important, central defenders, central midfielders, attacking midfielders and strikers. We play with two holding midfielders. We need two very good ones. We lost one of them in Hiroki (Akiyama), so Nick is here to battle for one of those spots.”
In addition to these five players, St. Clair and his staff are pleased to welcome Mauricio Murillo, Jr., and Steven Sanchez to training. Both highly-touted local midfield prospects had originally signed National Letters of Intent for the 2008 fall season, but had their entries delayed until this spring semester. Murillo, Jr., is out of Sunnyvale’s Wilcox High School, while Sanchez is a San Jose native out of Piedmont Hills High School.
“Steve and Mauricio were the cornerstones of our 2008 class,” concludes St. Clair about the talented duo. “At the time, I thought that they would have either started for us, or gotten significant minutes in the season that just finished. We had a very good year last year, but the margins are razor thin at this level. Every game is a battle, and I think they may have tipped the scale for us had they been available. I’m really excited about getting them out to training. They have a whole semester to get themselves fit, to incorporate themselves within the team and what we do, and to battle for a spot. They will play if they are good enough, and if they are not, then they will continue to work on their game, but it’s exciting to have them out there right now.”
2009 San Jose State University Men’s Soccer Newcomers
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/Previous School
Jonathan Lester GK 5-11 199 Fort Worth, Texas/SMU
Ricky Martin D 6-2 170 Rodeo, Calif./Hercules HS
Mauricio Murillo, Jr. MF 5-8 150 Santa Clara, Calif./Wilcox HS
Dylan Murphy MF 6-1 San Francisco, Calif./Lowell HS
Nick Murphy MF 5-11 165 San Francisco, Calif./Lowell HS
Christian Romero D/MF 5-9 145 Roseville, Calif./Woodcreek HS
Steven Sanchez MF/F 5-8 150 San Jose, Calif./Piedmont Hills HS