By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
World Cup a priority for local soccer fans
Local soccer enthusiasts Kyle Cerny, Luis Martinez, Koeurn Phe, Dominic Figueroa and Lou Toste have been glued to their TV sets since the start of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa on June 11.

"I pretty much stop everything," said Cerny, who along with Martinez and Phe, helped lead Ceres High School's varsity boys program to a 2-0 victory over crosstown rival Central Valley in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game last November. "It's the biggest sporting event on the face of the earth. It's like 10 Super Bowls. It's a great experience watching the best players compete for the biggest prize."

On Wednesday, Kyle couldn't contain his excitement after the United States edged Algeria 1-0 in a must-win game. Landon Donovan scored on a counterattack less than a minute into injury time for the Americans, who finished first in Group C.

"I was screaming and jumping," Cerny said. "I went crazy. I probably woke up half the neighborhood. They were so close to not advancing. That one second of brilliance sent them to the next round. I'd be depressed if they didn't move on."

A total of 16 teams will compete in the second round of the World Cup, including U.S., England, Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, Germany, Ghana, Netherlands, Japan, Paraguay, Slovakia, Brazil, Portugal, Chile and Spain.

Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).

"I always root for Brazil," said Martinez, who immigrated with his parents from South America to the U.S. "It's right next door to Peru. That's where I was born."

Phe graduated from Ceres High in 1992. A standout on the boys soccer team, Koeurn tallied a team-leading 16 goals as a senior. He was named head coach at his alma mater in 2008.

"When it (World Cup) comes around, it's special," Phe said. "You got 32 nations competing for one title. There's so much diversity in the tournament. If you love soccer, you watch every game. It doesn't matter who plays."

Koeurn has been following a handful of teams this year, including U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

"I support the Mexico team because I have players from there," he said.

Figueroa, 26, completed his first season as head coach of Ceres High's varsity girls soccer team in May. The former Cal State Stanislaus player (2002-2007) was called up by the Puerto Rican national team during 2010 World Cup qualification two years ago. Dominic was a reserve goalkeeper/defender.

"I suited up for two games," said Figueroa, whose team beat the Dominican Republic 1-0 before losing 4-0 to Honduras in front of a combined 28,000 fans. "It's one of the more proud moments I'v had in my young life. It was amazing. My goal is to go to the next one in person. I've already started planning. I can't wait."

Toste, longtime Ceres Youth Soccer Organization president, moved to the United States in 1957. He was born in the Azores, a self-governed region of Portugal.

Lou competed at the youth, high school and college levels. He played in adult leagues. Toste's also been a coach and referee.

"I support USA because I've been in this country for quite a few years," said Lou, 60. "I also like Portugal and Brazil. I think Brazil will go to the finals."

"If USA ever made it to the finals, it would have a tremendous impact on the youth," Cerny said. "Soccer is an afterthought in the USA because of baseball, football and basketball. If you don't play, you don't understand the beauty of the game."

"It's an exciting time right now for all the soccer fans in the world," Toste said. "Maybe we'll have some kids from our community be a part of that some day."

United States and Mexico were both eliminated from the World Cup this past weekend.