Senior keeper leads team’s defensive unit

Clifton Jones

The senior goalkeeper for the Sacramento State men’s soccer, Cesar Castillo, as a kid was always seen kicking a soccer ball around whether it was in the house or on a field.

Castillo, who ranks in the top 10 in the Division I in both total saves and saves per game, was a natural at the sport he started when he was 6-years-old.

It started with Castillo going to his father’s adult games on Sundays and watching him play in goal. There his passion for the game of soccer grew.

Castillo played in recreational leagues and competitively starting when he was 8, but it wasn’t until he was 13 that he would find his true calling of being a goalkeeper.

Castillo’s father, Cruz, saw his son’s potential at the position when he was playing for Marin FC in San Rafael, Calif.

“We told him as a goalie, you stand out from everyone,” Cruz Castillo said.

Cesar Castillo had strong family support as a kid, which has helped him succeed at Sac State.

“I think its great that my family is very involved in soccer, my mom doesn’t play but she used to drive us around to games and practices,” Cesar Castillo said. “I am very fortunate to have a family that supported my brother and me in playing soccer.”

Soccer is in the blood of not only Cesar Castillo and Cruz Castillo, but the entire family.  Everyone plays including Cesar Castillo’s uncles and his baby brother who now plays for Marin FC.

Having a brother playing soccer helped him develop a competitive spirit.

“It’s always good to have someone who loves the game of soccer around you,” Cesar Castillo said. “My brother and I would butt heads often when it came to the game of soccer.”  

Sac State had its eye on Cesar Castillo when he was playing for Marin FC as a senior in high school. Mike Linenberger was impressed with what his goalie had accomplished before becoming a Hornet.

“Cesar put himself in good environments,” Lineberger said. “He is big and he has great hands.”

Before Cesar Castillo came to Sac State he was receiving offers from San Diego State, Dominican University and UC Davis. No other school appealed to the senior like Sac State when he took his recruiting trip.

“I met Adam Bettencourt when he was injured and I was watching the game on the sideline,” Cesar Castillo said. “He told me that Sac State is the place to be for me.”

When Cesar Castillo finally stepped on campus as a freshman, Linenberger saw him as the future of Sac State but was surprised with how talented his goalie actually was.

“The coaching staff liked him from the start, but we honestly thought he was going to redshirt his freshman year,” Linenberger said. “[Cesar Castillo] came into camp and took the job from the more experienced goalies on the team.”

As a freshman, Cesar Castillo led his team to a championship win in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference, and was honored as freshman All-American in 2010. Even with his early success at Sac State, Cesar Castillo saw his playing time dip in both his sophomore and junior years.

Cesar Castillo said even with not playing much in his sophomore and junior years at Sac State, he never wanted to leave.   

“It has been great playing at Sac State and I am very fortunate playing four years here. I never really saw myself playing anywhere else,” Cesar Castillo said.

During his past two off seasons at Sac State, Cesar Castillo traveled to Orange County and Fresno playing for MLS Player Development Leagues. In Orange County he played for the Blue Stars PDL in the summer of 2012 and in Fresno he played for the Fuego PDL team in the summer of 2013.

Cesar Castillo’s 5.92 saves per game  and 84 total saves on the season is good enough to have four shutouts and 21 goals scored against him with two weeks of the season left to play.