Eighty minutes of soccer would seem like plenty of fitness training for one day. But not according to first-year Carson High boys soccer coach Jim Nealis.
"We definitely still have a lot of work to do," said Nealis, who took over for Bruce Bergantz. "Our fitness level is our biggest weakness. The team told me themselves, 'get us into shape.'
Nealis is listening.
Following the Senators' season-opening rout of Sparks on Wednesday at Carson High, every player stripped off their jerseys and shinguards. They were going for a 20-minute run. And off they went, all the while the scoreboard showed a 7-1 Carson win, revealing what should've reminded Nealis how good the Senators already are.
Apparently, that's not good enough.
"We have the potential to be really good," Nealis said. "Right now, we're taking it one game at a time, but we do have a lot of good players."
Enough good players to win a state championship, which would be the first Carson has won since 1998? Well, that still remains to be seen. But if Wednesday's lopsided win over Sparks was any indicator, the potential is certainly there.
Joel Alcaraz, a goal-scoring machine on the JV team last year, opened the scoring in the 13th minute. After being taken down in the box, Andrew James scored on a penalty kick five minutes later to give the Senators a 2-0 lead. That was right before the Railroaders' Joe Baro displayed a nifty bit of skill, followed by a shot that got past Carson goalie Sean Carter to make it 2-1.
James, whose older brother, Matt, was a member of that '98 state championship team, assisted on Carson's next two goals. The first by senior Jesus Cid, the other by Jeff Rodgers. Cid, primarily a defender under Bergantz last season, added another goal late in the first half as the Senators led 5-1.
Cid started the game at forward, then moved to defense in the second half.
"He's (Cid) the type of player who can play anywhere on the field," Nealis said. "He's got a great attitude. But that's what's nice about this team, we have several guys that can play anywhere on the field."
In soccer, a four-goal advantage is never anything to scoff at. But Carson was called offside numerous times in the first half. And if not for the Senators' inability to figure out Sparks' off-sides trap early on, the half-time score could've been much worse.
"I think we were just really anxious to score," Nealis said. "And it's the beginning of the season, so we're still adjusting."
The Railroaders, meanwhile, couldn't get anything going offensively. They only had four shots in the second half. After Bryce Burgesses' goal in the 53rd minute, Nealis replaced Carter in goal with Tony Nunez.
Carter reentered the game at forward and didn't disappoint. In the 74th minute, Carter converted Luis Rodriguez' cross, beating Sparks' goalie Manuel Martinez to finish the scoring.
"Sparks has a lot of skillful players, but I think they were just getting frustrated," Nealis said. "We were able to play everyone today, all 18 players, which is nice. Scoring a couple of goals early allows me to move people around."
Carson opens Sierra League play on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Wooster in Reno.