WATSONVILLE — Pajaro Valley United FC is headed to the playoffs in its first year in the United Premier Soccer League.
PV United finished the year in third place with 22 points in the Western Conference Wild West Division.
PV United will host a first round playoff game against San Leandro United FC (4-4-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Watsonville High. If they win, PV United will travel to Reno to play in the next round.
Just ahead of PV United were Nevada Coyotes FC (7-2-1), who also had 22 points but won the tie breaker based on goal differential, and Contra Costa FC (9-1-0) with a league-winning 27 points.
“It’s been pretty good competition,” said PV United coach Ernie Hurtado. “A lot of these teams can actually compete at a higher level.”
Hurtado, 39, said the only reason why these teams don’t is because it costs more to compete in the regular season.
“Doing good this season hopefully draws more attention to where people wanna help and keep these guys playing,” Hurtado said.
The team is made up of a majority of players from Watsonville, including Pajaro Valley High alumnus Alexis Rincon.
It’s Rincon’s first year on the team and he said it’s nice to play in his hometown because now he can have his parents come watch him play.
“I really like it. I get to play with friends and I made a lot of new friends,” Rincon said. “It’s nice to see Watsonville bring up a team that wants to be something big.”
Alexis Rincon, right, played at West Valley College prior to joining Pajaro Valley United FC. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)
Watsonville High alumnus Samier Naranjo said competing in the UPSL is a great way to start something great in the community.
“I feel like Watsonville has always had good talent here,” Naranjo said. “Ernie (Hurtado) putting this together has been amazing. The whole experience has been great, so far.”
Hurtado, who’s been coaching for the past 10 years, said the UPSL has been a different experience for some of the players.
“I’m trying to get them out of playing just regular soccer here in town,” Hurtado said. “That’s why I’m hoping we win this weekend so that they get that experience of traveling.”
Naranjo, 21, said when the team first started some of them had hardly played together. He said that was one of the biggest challenges this season.
“But we pulled together throughout the season and in practice,” Naranjo said. “Now we’re in the playoffs. It’s pretty amazing to say that we did it.”
Rincon, 20, said he didn’t expect the team to get this far because only a handful of players showed up in the beginning.
But now the team is more united than ever and Rincon said hopefully this playoff run will attract more players to try out next year.
“I’ve heard a couple of people ask, ‘Can we join?’” he said. “It’s good to hear that because it’s showing that they’re recognizing how this team is evolving into hopefully something big.”
Samier Naranjo played at Cabrillo College and the Santa Cruz Breakers Academy prior to joining Pajaro Valley United FC. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)
Naranjo said this is only the beginning of something good.
“Imagine if we go even further than this, people in the community are going to want to join,” he said.
Hurtado said one of the main reasons he put PV United in the UPSL is to give kids coming out of high school a chance to continue their soccer career.
Hurtado said a lot of kids stop playing competitively because most of them don’t go on to college, which is one of the main stages to keep playing soccer.
“If they make it they continue to play but if they don’t there’s pretty much nothing else for them to do,” he said. “That’s where this came in and hopefully it’ll keep these guys playing for as long as they can.”
Hurtado said many people in the community haven’t heard about them, which means the stands aren’t as full as he’d like them to be.
Hurtado has tried to promote the team on social media and by word of mouth but he’s hoping to continue to grow.
“Draw more crowds and hopefully draw more attention to what we’re trying to do,” Hurtado said.
Editor's Note: This article will be published in the June 21 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.