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Oregon’s top high school boys soccer players: Meet the state’s best defenders

Who are the top defenders in Oregon boys soccer this season?

We’re taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Oregon high school boys soccer. This list focuses on the defenders. 

There are hundreds of standout boys soccer players in Oregon and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive! Let us know about any other defenders you think should be added.

D/M Jallow Abdourahem, Aloha, senior

Warriors coach Enrique Abad called Abdourahem a team leader who can play on the back line or in the midfield. He was a second-team all-Metro League selection as a junior, scoring three goals. “He has great knowledge on the field and keeps the team together,” Abad said.

D Kogen Albertini, Jesuit, senior

Crusaders coach Geoff Skipper called Albertini “a true center back” who can win balls in the air and chip in on the attack (three goals and two assists as a junior). “He plays with a quiet confidence,” Skipper said.

D Ben Alley, Blanchet Catholic, senior

The Cavaliers bounced back from back-to-back losing seasons last year, winning nine games and returning to the 3A/2A/1A state playoffs for the first time since 2014. Leading the way was Alley, an all-state honorable mention selection who played left back last fall but will move to center back this season. “He has more of a defensive mindset, which is why I switched him to center back,” coach Zach Ramirez said. “He’s just an amazing defender with his work rate, ball control and vision.”

D/M Mason Bradley, West Linn, junior

Lions coach Ryan Gates didn’t mince words when discussing his first-team all-Three Rivers League defender, who played on the ODP National team in the offseason and was recently named to the ODP West Regional team. “Mason is probably the best player in the state,” he said. “He will play anywhere near the back line as either a defensive midfielder or as a center back. He is so calm on the ball and can hit line-breaking passes to the forwards or wings with pinpoint accuracy.”

D/M Hadyn Burk, Mazama, senior

The Vikings struggled to a winless campaign last year, but Burk’s play stood out at center back, with Skyline Conference coaches voting him to the all-conference second team. Coach Arnulfo Gutierrez recalled a preseason talk with Burk, telling him, “‘This is your year. You need to step into a leadership role.’ And he’s done that in practice for us so far.”

D Sixto Chavez, McKay, senior

Chavez starts opposite Musa Jallow at right back, and like his counterpart, he’ll use his speed to join the attack for the Royal Scots. He made the all-Mid-Willamette honorable mention list last fall. “Even though he tends to shoot on fewer occasions than Musa, Sixto is still a threat as he has a really good shot from far,” coach Juan Llamas said.

D/M Cal Corwin, Mountain View, senior

Cougars coach Ian White called his four-year starter “the definition of a true team player” for his willingness to play his second-best position (center back) the past two years to fill a team need. He has made the all-Intermountain Conference honorable mention list each of the past three seasons. White plans to use him as both a center back and winger this fall.

D Dominic Crenshaw, Phoenix, senior

Crenshaw was a first-team all-Skyline Conference midfielder last season for the Pirates, assisting on five goals, but he’s another player on the move this year, shifting to center back. “He is working hard as a defender to hone his craft,” coach Chris Gallegos said.

D Nate Ernst, Central Catholic, senior

The Rams rode the second-stingiest defense in 6A last year (11 goals allowed in 17 games) to a quarterfinal berth, anchored by first-team all-Mt. Hood Conference center back Ernst, whom coach Chris Palmer praised for his ability to join in the attack on set pieces. “He hardly ever misses a pass, and he distributes at a pretty high percentage,” Palmer said. “He’s also a fantastic leader.”

D Jacob Frederico, Klamath Union, senior

Pelicans coach Trevor Petersen called Frederico “one of the fastest high school soccer players I have ever seen.” Frederico last season earned first-team all-Skyline Conference honors as a sweeper. “He is a tenacious defender who gives everything to win the ball,” Petersen said. “He can also use his speed to join attacking sequences at times.”

D Derek Garcia, Wilsonville, junior

When Garcia isn’t serving as the team barber, he directs a Wildcats back line that posted five clean sheets a year ago. “He has tremendous vision and calmness on the ball that will help settle the team,” coach Ian Reschke said.

D Luis Garza, Woodburn, senior

Garza started at left back and played every minute for a defense that posted five clean sheets and allowed just 12 goals in 14 matches last year, making the all-Mid-Willamette honorable mention list. Bulldogs coach Leroy Sanchez said he could also move Garza to the attack as a left winger. “He’s got so much speed, vision and technical ability on the left side,” Sanchez said. “He’s one of our most important players.”

D Quinn Gates, West Linn, sophomore

Gates puts the stamina he developed as an 800-meter runner (sixth at Three Rivers League district as a freshman) to good use as a fullback on the soccer pitch, making the all-TRL second team last fall. “Quinn brings a tireless work ethic to his defensive duties,” coach Ryan Gates said. “He is the best 1v1 defender on the team and always is awarded the hardest defensive assignment.”

D Alex Guitierrez, Westview, senior

Gutierrez started for the Wildcats on their back line last season, serving as “the voice of the team,” as coach Jon Fresh described him, in their march to the 6A state final. “He is the consummate leader of the team,” Fresh said. “He has very strong defensive skills technically and orchestrates the movement of the team with his tactical awareness.”

D Levi Hawes, South Eugene, junior

Hawes joined the Axe after playing in the Portland Timbers Youth Academy growing up. He also starts for the basketball team and ran at the Southwest Conference district track meet last spring. “As a soccer player, Levi is a composed, two-footed playmaking defender who can score from distance and successfully play out of the back,” coach Pete Peterson said.

D Amadeus Hernandez, Lost River, senior

In the Raiders’ first season as a varsity program, Hernandez made history by making the 3A/2A/1A all-state team as an honorable mention selection in helping them qualify for the state playoffs. The Raiders allowed just 20 goals in 14 games. “This year, we have a young team where Amadeus will be asked to step up as a leader and fill in where needed,” coach Rafael Hernandez said. “He is a team player, always looking to help his teammates whether they have been playing for years or have recently picked up the sport.”

D Musa Jallow, McKay, senior

Jallow and his brother, Abdoulie, became integral players for the Royal Scots in their run to a first 5A state championship. A native of The Gambia on the West African coast, Musa returns as a left back who also gets into the attack, finishing last year with six goals and eight assists and making the all-Mid-Willamette second team. “Musa is somebody that not only is effective in defending but also a threat when we attack,” coach Juan Llamas said. “His speed is crucial to our game plan, and that speed will definitely be used throughout the season.”

D Owen Jones, Catlin Gabel, senior

The Eagles missed Jones, a two-year starter on back-to-back 3A/2A/1A state champions who sat out last season because of injury, during their bid for a fourth consecutive OSAA title last fall. Besides being a standout defender, Jones also competes in ultimate frisbee, which he will play collegiately next year. “A lockdown defender and initiator of the attack, his athleticism and organizational capacity are critical assets,” coach Peter Shulman said.

D Naoto Kagawa, Liberty, senior

Kagawa not only wins the team’s all-you-can-eat Buffalo wings competition at Applebee’s (the tally reached around 30), but he also plays a mean center back for the Falcons, making the all-Pacific Conference second team as an outside back last year. “His speed and physicality make him an imposing presence on the back line,” coach Tom Olen said. “Naoto returns as a captain this year, and his leadership makes him a perfect fit in the middle of the defense.”

D Adisen Krogh, North Eugene, senior

Krogh didn’t post big numbers for the Highlanders last fall, but coach Simon Estifanos credited the second-team all-Midwestern League right back as being “a vital piece of our defense” that helped them decrease their goals allowed by 57 percent — from 53 in 2021 to 23 last season. “Adisen is a dream player to have on your squad,” Estifanos said. “He’s explosive and agile on defense; I'll put my money on him in any 1v1 defending situation. Not only is he strong on the defensive end, but he also sets an explosive tempo on offense.”

D Devin LaCasse-Tran, West Albany, senior

LaCasse-Tran has been one of the instrumental players leading the Bulldogs’ rise from also-rans to first-time 5A state finalists last fall, making the SBLive Oregon all-state first team as a center back. “He has owned the back line and been a captain since he was a sophomore,” coach Kevin Branigan said of the High School All-American Game nominee. “A talented, strong, intelligent defender, Devin is extremely dedicated and competitive and gets the best out of his teammates.”

D Gabe Lachman, Summit, junior

As a sophomore, Lachman helped anchor a defense that posted 14 shutouts and allowed just five goals all season, making the all-Intermountain Conference second team playing alongside lockdown defender Ben Davis. “He’s just a solid center back who’ll be an impact player for us,” Storm coach Tom Bunnell said.

D Luong Lam, David Douglas, senior

Lam enters his fourth year as a starting center back fresh off a junior season in which he earned second-team all-Mt. Hood Conference honors. “Luong has been a vocal leader along our back line since his freshman year,” Scots coach Logan Marquardt said. “He plays with great focus and intensity and is an integral part of our defensive line.”

D/M Diego Lopez, Sprague, senior

Olympians coach Dwaine Richards moves Lopez between center back and center attacking midfield depending on matchups. At either, he is a standout player, making the all-Central Valley Conference first team last fall. “Diego is a triple threat,” Richards said. “His intelligence, versatility and powerful technical ability make him an invaluable asset on the field. His adaptability is shown through his play at multiple positions on the field. His knack for outsmarting opponents is a testament to his exceptional abilities as a player.”

D Brayan Lopez Mora, Sandy, senior

Pioneers coach Christopher Cramer called Lopez Mora “our unsung hero last year. He led our back line last year as a junior and does a lot of the little things that go unrecognized but are so important to our success as a team. His physicality and reading of the game are top-notch.”

D/M Carter Lynch, Junction City, senior

Lynch plays primarily center back for the Tigers, where he was a second-team all-Sky Em League selection last fall, but he occasionally moves to the midfield. He finished with three assists last season. “Carter has been an incredible servant to (our program) in his three years so far,” coach Beau Dussell said. “He is a tireless leader in the classroom and on the field.”

D Nico Moore, Ashland, senior

Grizzlies coach Abdiaziz Guled praised his right back’s ability to think two or three steps ahead of every play in order to shut down opposing attacks. The 2022 all-Midwestern League honorable mention pick “reads the game and throws his body into every play,” Guled said.

D Alex Peterman, Marist Catholic, junior

Peterman has started at outside back for the Spartans since his freshman season, making the all-Sky Em League honorable mention list last fall. “A dynamic defender who can lead the counterattack,” coach Jonathan Rea said.

D Eamon Pierce, Wells, sophomore

Pierce was the only underclassman on the Guardians back line last season, starting 16 of 17 games and receiving all-PIL second-team recognition. This year, his role changes — he’s the only defender with any experience, and coach Dylan Lomanto is counting on him to lead a young back line.

D Ryder Poulin, Summit, senior

Poulin moves from striker, where he was an all-Intermountain Conference honorable mention pick a year ago, to center back this season to team with Gabe Lachman on the back line. First-year Storm coach Tom Bunnell appreciated how Poulin was the first player who reached out to him when he was hired. “He’s helped me navigate the waters, and that says a lot about this kid,” Bunnell said. “He’ll be a big-time player and a good leader.”

D Raul Rendon Benitez, Catlin Gabel, senior

Rendon Benitez is a four-year starter who anchored one of the state’s top defenses last season; the team allowed just 12 goals in 17 games. The SBLive Oregon third-team all-state center back also had two goals and four assists. “Even as a freshman, he displayed considerable leadership qualities,” coach Peter Shulman said. “Raul is a dominant player on the pitch, taking over in the air, imposing on the tackle, and a creative ball-playing center back.”

D Luca Ridgewell, Lake Oswego, senior

Ridgewell moved from England to the Portland suburbs about a year ago, so perhaps it shouldn't come as any surprise when the center back made the 6A all-state second team and SBLive Oregon all-state third team last fall, also contributing three goals and five assists. The High School All-American Game nominee described his style as “being comfortable on the ball and being a leader on the pitch with my communication.”

D Sergio Ruiz, McKay, senior

Ruiz last season anchored a back line that allowed just four goals in 17 matches en route to the program’s first 5A state title, earning second-team SBLive Oregon all-state honors. He’ll have a new center back pairing this fall, “but Sergio is poised for the challenge, and he is ready to work with whoever will be joining him in the back,” Royal Scots coach Juan Llamas said last month.

D Karson Sammons, Westview, senior

Wildcats coach Jon Fresh called Sammons “one of our most versatile players,” deploying him along the back line but giving him the freedom to enter the attack — he had a goal and an assist in their first two games this season. “Technical and tactically intelligent, he is a confident defender,” Fresh said. “He is calm on the ball and is able to work out of tight spaces.”

D Griffin Scott, Jesuit, senior

Scott enters his third season on the Crusaders back line as a critical member of a unit that last year posted seven clean sheets and allowed fewer than a goal per game en route to the program’s 16th state title. “Griff is a big-time leader on and off the field,” coach Geoff Skipper said. “He’s a hard-nosed defender that can also play out of the back.”

D Hayden Stanford, Central Catholic, senior

Rams coach Chris Palmer called Stanford “one of the most aggressive defenders you’ll see” and plans to move the all-Mt. Hood Conference honorable mention pick to center back to team with first-team all-leaguer Nate Ernst. “He’s someone who surprises you a lot,” Palmer said. “He carries this relaxed posture, but he’s quite a dynamic back and all-around fantastic player.”

D Quinton Swanston, Summit, freshman

Into a back line that graduated several key players steps Swanston, a freshman who can play either left or right back and plays like a seasoned veteran. He stands 6-foot-3 “but is really fast and understands the game well. This kid is the real deal. I think he will be an incredible player coming out of Oregon.”

D Scott Twyman, South Eugene, junior

Twyman started on a back line that allowed just eight goals in 18 matches last season. Axe coach Pete Peterson called him “a gritty 1v1 defender and tenacious tackler. He is known for pure speed, 1v1 defending and ball-playing competence.”

D David Ventura-Padilla, Churchill, senior

Ventura-Padilla didn’t receive the recognition Lancers coach Andrew Perez believed he deserved last season, but “he has grown so much as a player this offseason, he is going to surprise a lot of teams,” Perez predicted. He also noted Ventura-Padilla has an odd habit when something doesn’t go his way on the pitch — he yells “chicken nuggets!” or something else “wildly hilarious,” as Perez put it, to stay positive. “His skills match his intensity,” Perez concluded. “He is probably the hardest-working kid I’ve seen play soccer.”

D Lincoln Weiler, Oregon Episcopal, sophomore

Weiler started every game as a freshman for the 3A/2A/1A state champions, rarely showing any lapses in his play. “He brings energy and competitiveness to every activity and will happily work tirelessly for 80+ minutes,” Aardvarks coach David Rosenberg said. “His understanding of the game, drive and technical ability make him one of the strongest and most dangerous defenders in the state at this level.”