LOS ANGELES — With his career and the Cal State L.A. Golden Eagles’ season on the line, goalkeeper Steven Barrera made eight crucial saves in the California Collegiate Athletic Association championship.
His quickness and anticipation skills in the box helped the Golden Eagles score a 2-0 shutout victory Nov. 5 over Cal Poly Pomona and earn a golden ticket to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Soccer Tournament for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
The Bellflower resident was named Most Valuable Defensive Player on the CCAA All-Tournament team. He also earned All-CCAA honorable mention for his stellar play during the regular season.
“It was a tough road, but we were able to take on the challenge and come out with all three wins,” Barrera said about the tournament. “If we keep this momentum going into NCAA playoffs, we’re going to do well.”
The 6-foot 180-pound goalkeeper is team captain and has led the Golden Eagles defensively this season with a saves percentage of .820, a goals against average of 0.83 and 10 shutouts.
The 24-year-old Barrera has excelled in a role that few people want to play. Goalkeeper is a pressure-packed position. When the team wins, the focus often falls on the goal scorers. But when the team loses, the goalkeeper is quick to blame himself.
Barrera showed his ability to handle the pressure when he made a diving save in the fourth round of a penalty-kick shootout in the semifinal match of the CCAA Tournament. The save pushed the Golden Eagles past the top-seeded Toros of Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“Steven has evolved into a goalkeeper who not only saves what he should save, but also has the ability to make the great save when needed,” head coach Chris Chamides said. “Most goalkeepers have one of these qualities, but he has developed into a guy who can do both, and this is setting him apart from others during his senior season.”
applauded the team’s performance this season. “The team showed tremendous grit throughout the tournament. Steven was a key part of the victory,” he said.
Barrera began playing soccer as a 3-year-old. He started in the field but would get frustrated when the other team scored.
“So I took it upon myself to play goalkeeper,” he recalled. “Then somehow, I ended up staying there.”
Barrera developed a love for the game from its competitive nature. He enjoys coming out every day and battling.
“I do the best that I can – working hard and coming out every day to win my position,” said Barrera, known as “Steezy” by his teammates.
“He works hard. And when I play with Steezy in goal behind me, there’s a sense of confidence,” midfielder Sam Croucher said.
Barrera’s excitement for the game extends beyond University Stadium.
When he is not on the field for Cal State LA, or in human resource management classes, he takes time to train youth soccer players for Coerver Coaching. For more than two years, Barrera has helped to develop skilled, confident and creative players from the ages of 9 to 14.
“Steven embodies our Golden Eagle student-athletes’ commitment to engagement, service, and the public good,” said Cal State LA Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez.
Barrera has found a true passion for coaching and its rewarding nature.
“You create a relationship with these kids. They come back because of you, because their parents like the way you coach them,” Barrera said.
Barrera recalled a small red-headed boy nicknamed “Thunder,” whom he first coached at a camp two years ago. The boy returned the following summer, specifically remembering Barrera, eager and ready to learn more.
“It’s very rewarding to know that these little kids are looking up to you,” Barrera said.
Heading into the NCAA tournament, Cal State LA has been named the No. 4 seed in the West Region. The Golden Eagles will square off against a familiar foe: Cal State Dominguez Hills. The match will mark the fourth time this season that the two teams have battled.
The game is scheduled for Nov. 9, at 1 p.m., at California Baptist University in Riverside.
“It’s going to be a good one,” Barrera predicts. “The last three have been battles. This is the most important one.”