After the Multicultural Career Intern Program (MCIP) had been completed for the school day, soccer Coach Prospero Torres assessed his 1984 team's prospects. One key fact jumped out at him: only four players returned from last season's Interhigh championship squad.
"We have a very young team this year and there's a lot to learn in such a short time," said Torres, whose team opens its season at home against McKinley (a newcomer) Oct. 11 at 3:30. "The competition is getting tough." And then he smiled.
Certainly, he couldn't be serious. MCIP, also known as Bilingual, located at Lincoln Junior High, has dominated Interhigh League soccer the last five years and, despite the loss of 14 players, is the team to beat.
The school has an enrollment of more than 700 students, most of whom come from countries such as Chile, Guatemala and Mexico. And it should be easy to determine why Bilingual is the reigning soccer champions.
"Soccer is a favorite pastime for the people in Central (and South) America," Torres said. "And the team I have consists of students mostly from those countries. They know the game of soccer like the Americans know basketball."
Torres, who became Bilingual's coach in 1982, has guided the school to a 28-0 record and back-to-back championships with consecutive victories over Wilson.
Before Torres' arrival, Bilingual had compiled a 17-2 record and won one championship. Its only two losses were to Wilson, which, like Bilingual, showcases a host of international players.
Bilingual does not participate in other league sports such as football, baseball and basketball.
"Those are very physical sports that require players to be big, bulky and strong," said Torres. "The tallest athletic player at this school is probably 6 feet and weighs 160. We wouldn't be able to survive in a single game if we were to organize a football or basketball team.
"Last season, we had trouble keeping players healthy," Torres continued. "The Americans play very physical and are usually much stronger than we are."
Bilingual's midfielder, David Chavez, the team's most valuable player last fall, agrees.
"The Americans are rough and big," said Chavez, who's listed at 5-2, 127 pounds. "But they lack technique and skills."
Chavez, a native of El Salvador who scored six goals last season and had 12 assists, will be complemented this season by center-forward Walter Benitez and Amir Marques. Marques, a senior also from El Salvador, led the team in scoring last fall with seven goals. He is aiming to score 10 this season.
"I sharpened my skills considerably during the summer," the 5-5, 147-pound senior said. "I think I'm quicker and stronger. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to score 10 or more goals."
Sigfrido Fortis, who scored five goals last year, also returns to the lineup.