From Montgomery High to SRJC to All-American: Two soccer players honored among nation’s best


Courtesy Alan Soto and Emanuel Padilla

Alan Soto and Emanuel Padilla receive their All-American awards on stage at the 2022 United Soccer Coaches Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

Christian Vieyra, Reporter

Santa Rosa Junior College goalie Emanuel Padilla was on the phone with his girlfriend when another call beeped-in. He put her on hold and heard a familiar voice on the other end of the line — his head coach, Marty Kinahan, calling to tell Padilla he was one of the country’s Top 11 junior college soccer players. Padilla had been named first team All-American.

But that wasn’t all. Padilla’s long-time teammate, forward Alan Soto, also made the first team. Padilla hung up on his girlfriend to ring Soto. Immediately. “He just called me and said, ‘Congratulations!’ and at first I didn’t know what he meant,” Soto said. Padilla had beaten Kinahan to his teammate.

Out of nowhere — or so it seemed to the two men — the United Soccer Coaches Association, or USCA, recognized Padilla and Soto as two of the best Division III junior college soccer players in the U.S., a group that consists of thousands of players.

Padilla didn’t expect to earn All-American honors in his freshman season. “I started out bad to be honest,” he said. “I just think over time I got better.”

Soto, who graduates this summer, didn’t expect it either. “I didn’t know if everyone really saw the quality in me, so it was cool,” Soto said.

But the honor didn’t shock their coaches, not SRJC coach Kinahan nor their Montgomery High School coach Jon Schwan. This year, in his debut season at goalie for the Bear Cubs, Padilla had 77 saves and nine shutouts. Soto, a forward in his last year at the JC, scored 14 goals and eight assists. “When they walked through the doors of Montgomery, we knew they were special players,” Schwan said. “[They] were extremely competitive guys who wanted to win, and that always carried over to the field.”

Schwan was pleased to see both players leave Montgomery for SRJC for two reasons. “I get to stay involved in their lives and watch them continue to grow locally here,” he said, “and I went to the JC so it makes it even more special for me.”

Now both players are looking ahead to next season. For Soto, that means his first year at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, where he plans to hold himself to a higher standard. “As an All-American, everyone

looks at you like you know what you’re doing,” Soto said. “Now that I’m moving on, I have to [make a good first impression] for JC players, because they’re not always given the chance to play [after junior college].”

Padilla has another year of eligibility at the community college level and is focused on the Bear Cubs’ 2022 season, which he is calling a “redemption year” after the team’s playoff loss in November to conference rival Cosumnes River College.

Soto has high hopes for his now-former teammate. “[Padilla] is just a beast. He’s a great player, great leader,” Soto said. “I think he’s gonna go somewhere after the JC, and hopefully, it’s a good school with quality players just like him.”

The USCA presented Padilla and Soto with their first team All-American awards at a ceremony in January in Kansas City, Missouri. Coach Kinahan traveled with them and their families and gave them advice before the ceremony. “He said, ‘Enjoy the moment while you can,’” Padilla recalled. “And I didn’t really think about it until it was over, and once it was over, I realized he was right. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people, and we just have to enjoy it.”