Freshman leads Sac State men’s soccer team in points


Sacramento State freshman Fernando Carranza, left, keeps the ball from Air Force’s Kyle Moses during the 1-0 victory on Friday at Hornet Soccer Field.:

Victor Nieto

When Ernesto Carranza first laced up his soccer cleats, shin pads and uniform and got ready for his first recreational soccer match at the age of 9, there were no visions of glory, or daydreams of playing on a FIFA World Cup team – he was strictly out there to impress one man.

“Growing up, I wanted to be like my dad,” Carranza said. “When I was growing up, he used to play a lot of (recreational) soccer and I saw that and wanted to be like him. He was my hero growing up.”

During that first game, nearly a decade ago, Carranza scored four goals on route to a victory for his team. His initial intentions of gaining the approval of his father had been overshadowed by his impressive performance and a variety of skills few players can match – a cachet that still follows him around today.

“In my 19 years of coaching here at Sac State, I don’t believe that we have come across a player as creative as Ernesto…The best way to put it is that he’s one of those guys that you would pay to watch play,” said men’s soccer coach Micheal Linenberger.

In his first year at Sacramento State, Carranza has led the Hornets in points with nine and has managed three assists and three goals to his name, including his first as a Hornet on a penalty kick in a match against Oregon State University in minute 74 of the game.

“I don’t know how it happened, but the guys on the field came up to me and said ‘hey, you should kick this one.’ So I did and scored,” Carranza said. “I just wasn’t expecting it because I’m a freshman.”

Although Carranza comes off as a bit reserved, he has been one of the focal points for opposing coaches and players for years and has helped lead his previous club teams and the Oakdale High Mustangs to numerous titles and awards.

At his previous high school, he played all four years at the varsity level and during those years he helped lead his team to the section finals three out of the four years, with a championship his junior year. During that year, Carranza took home the triple-crown by earning district MVP, Valley Oak League MVP and team MVP.

Carranza acknowledged that his success in high school helped him get noticed, but it was his experience on his San Juan club team that was the most responsible for his exposure. The club teams are composed of some of the more elite players in a certain area and those teams travel all over the state and country at times. As Carranza said, it’s a way for you to spread your name by word of mouth and hopefully it gets to the right people.

After his senior year at Oakdale, Carranza received numerous recruiting letters from schools such as Cal Poly and UC Riverside, but chose Sac State for numerous reasons, one because it was close to his home and family in Modesto.

Carranza and his parents moved from Mexico to California when he was 6 and have lived in the Modesto area ever since. Carranza said it would be nice to be in a place like San Luis Obispo or Southern California, but the option of being close to home, yet not too close, was the deciding factor.

This way, his parents can still see his home games and he can still spend time with his younger sister and brother, who is also an aspiring soccer player and sees Carranza in the same way he once saw his dad.

When he’s not at home with the family or on the field for the Hornets, Carranza is usually playing the role of “futbol” star Ronaldinho on his FIFA World Cup PlayStation2, or enjoying the amenities that go along with being a freshman living in the dorms.

For now, Carranza said his goal is to help the team reach the Big Sky championship and do whatever it takes to get them there. As of Thursday, the Hornets are eight points back of New Mexico University with four games to play.

The team’s next match the Hornet will play the division leaders on Friday in New Mexico.

Victor Nieto can be reached at [email protected]