SportStars Magazine

One Last Ride

Jeff Greenberg has Monte Vista boys soccer playing with extreme purpose, and on track for a title.

  By MATT SMITH | Contributor

  For most soccer teams, a 17-win season, which included a second place league finish, a No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a quarterfinal appearance, would be a success.

  But the Monte Vista High boys soccer team left the 2012-13 season feeling less than satisfied.

  An East Bay Athletic League title fell out of the Mustangs grasp due to a couple of late-season hiccups, which was followed by an upset loss in the North Coast Section Division I playoffs.

  However, the Mustangs aren’t getting ahead of themselves, by claiming that it’s an NCS title or bust.

  “We have set a few goals this year,” Monte Vista coach Matt Zahner said. “Most important is that each game we strive to play up to our potential. We do want our last game we play in, whenever it is, to be our most complete game.”

  Whenever that game is, Mustangs star senior forward Jeff Greenberg will walk on the field knowing it’s his last competitive soccer match. 

  Due to a serious back condition, Greenberg — who has 16 goals and eight assists through the Mustangs first 12 games — has already decided he won’t attempt to play collegiately. So good luck finding a more determined player when the NCS playoffs begin on Feb. 19.

  “I want to go out on top and there would be no sweeter way to do that than to win NCS,” Greenberg said. 

  With the program not having won an NCS title since 2007, the Mustangs understand it will be no easy task. There are hurdles to overcome, such as injury and inconsistency, which are no strangers to the game of soccer.

  “Winning an NCS title is very very difficult,” Zahner said. “Probably the most important thing is to be healthy as a team, and to be peaking as a squad. The entire season has been a build up to this moment. It’s important to be playing your best, because anything is possible not just in NCS, but historically in the sport of soccer itself.”

  Because of elements such as weather, a rash of injuries which ultimately strike, and because of your playoff draw, staying together as a team is extremely important.

  “It is a great team game that offers so many opportunities for creative strategy,” Zahner said. “Also, the draw by the NCS selection committee is very important. Last year our side of the bracket of eight teams had four EBAL teams in it plus Richmond. It was a tough bracket to come out of. The other side of the bracket had two EBAL teams in it, by comparison. So, luck of the draw is an important factor. Finally, to be having fun and enjoying being with your teammates, nothing beats that. No memory lasts like that.”

  Monte Vista is, to this point, doing two things very successfully. They are playing great soccer, and they are having fun. Both of those things are helped in large part by Greenberg.

  “I love everything about playing at Monte Vista,” Greenberg said. “I think we have a really good group of guys on and off the field and we all get along great. We have coaches who care about us as people and try to set us up for success in life, not just soccer. I also like the fact that all the years I have played varsity we have had a team that has been able to compete with the best teams in our section.”

  What Greenberg does not mention, but others will, is how his sense of humor, and his goofiness, play a large part in the camaraderie of this seasons’ edition of the Monte Vista team.

  “He has a fun personality, always keeping things light at practice, and keeping it fun,” Zahner said. “But, truly, within him is a strong fire and will to compete.

  “He sees the game and opportunities so well. He can set up others as well as himself. And, he just seems to be able to hold on to the ball even with three or four defenders collapsing on him. He communicates verbally and non-verbally with his teammates very well. The chemistry he has with his teammates is fantastic.”

  This is why he is in the top three in both goals scored and assists. He’s also one of the East Bay leaders in humility, and is quick to give the credit to the team.

  “I think the main thing that has helped me be successful this year is how well we are playing collectively,” Greenberg said. “There are plenty of other forwards in the East Bay who are just as good as I am and don’t have nearly the same stats as I do right now because they don’t play on as strong of teams. My teammates deserve plenty of credit because without them I wouldn’t be able to score as much. So I think my success is due to the strength of our team.”

  Ending his competitive soccer career after this season was not a decision he took lightly.

  “I do love the game, and since I was a little boy it has always been my passion,” Greenberg said. “I have a pretty serious back problem and at the beginning of my junior year my family and I decided that it would be in my best interest to not continue playing past high school. I wanted to go out playing with my best friends who I have had forever. My teammates at Monte Vista are, and always will be, good friends of mine.”

  And if he’s closing out his soccer career, then he and his teammates are going to leave nothing on the table. 

  “Going into this year we knew we had a good team, a lot of returning players and some good young players coming up,” Greenberg said. “Each year I’ve been at Monte Vista we have progressively gotten better from year to year and I expected that to continue this season which I think it has.”

  After winning a Jan. 9th EBAL showdown with De La Salle, the Mustangs found themselves at 11-0-1 overall, ranked No. 1 in the East Bay, and at the top of the league with 12 points. It was also the team’s 11th win in a row. After losing some very key players from last year’s team, the success might be coming as a bit of a surprise. 

  “I honestly didn’t know what to expect,” Zahner said. “But, the reality of coaching at a school like Monte Vista, is that yes, you expect that you have the potential to compete each and every season. While your expectations may hit a speed bump some years, you still expect to be in the mix.” 

  When the playoffs roll around, set pieces outside of the penalty area become extremely crucial, and bigger teams generally have an advantage. This Monte Vista team is not big, so they will have to overcome that, as well as do all of the other things they have been doing.

  “We need to maintain our joy of the game each and every day, and focus on playing to the best of our abilities — not keying off our opponents and what they are doing,” Zahner said. “We have to respect the abilities and potential of each and every team we play against. 

  “Also, a bit of luck is always helpful.”

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