One of the best goalkeepers in the state of Washington plays on Mariner’s boys soccer team, and he has been a key part of the Marauders’ success on the field this season.
The thing is, Cristhian Robles hasn’t made his impact the net. He’s been playing defense the whole time for Mariner.
Robles, who has been a keeper for an Olympic Development Team and the Northwest Nationals select team, has anchored Mariner’s defense this year as the Marauders won the Wesco South 4A league title and now look to win even more in the postseason.
“He is the best keeper in the state,” Mariner head coach Vince DeSimone said. “He’s also a great midfielder. He can play every position. He pretty much does what you tell him to do. He’s very understanding. He knows the game. I keep on telling him every time I don’t know why he wants to just play keeper. He could be the best center mid in the state.”
If asked, Robles says that goalkeeper is his favorite position, although he “doesn’t know why.” He wanted to try something different while playing for his high school team.
Something more fun.
“I just like having fun and when I’m in goal I’m really serious. You never see me smile,” Robles said. “Out here I’m always smiling now cause it’s just fun. It’s high school, that’s what it’s for.”
This season the whole Mariner soccer team has been smiling. With star forward Miguel Medina sparking the offense, the Marauders finished the regular season with an 11-4-1 overall record, good enough for first place in the Wesco South 4A and a first-round bye in the district tournament.
Mariner will play host to the winner of the Kamiak-Lake Stevens game on Tuesday. The Marauders are 3-0 against those two teams this year.
A big part of Mariner’s success can be attributed to Robles, who DeSimone said has an exceptional soccer mind.
“The thing about this kid from day one, when he was a freshman, he was just all contained. He will do whatever it takes,” DeSimone said. “Sometimes I tell him I need you to go play sweeper today in the middle of the game and he’ll just pop right in there. This kid just understands everything. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve been around soccer for a long time.
“This kid just gets it.”
Sometimes Robles is so good, casual observers — and referees — miss it. In the Marauders game against Snohomish on April 3, Robles jumped to stop a shot from going into the goal in the 15th minute. He said used his head to deflect the shot from going in, but the referee immediately raised a red card, saying Robles used his hand.
The Panthers scored on a penalty kick to take the lead, and ultimately defeated the short-handed Marauders 2-1 in a battle of the top two teams in the Wesco North and South leagues.
“It was a header,” Robles said. “I used my head. I can see why he thought it was a handball, because a shot like that it was going to knock me off, so obviously I had to bring up my hands to use that force (to make the ball go forward) and I came up and I used my head, but I guess he thought I used my hand.
“It’s fine. We’re over that, though.”
Robles missed the next game against Lake Stevens, where DeSimone “had to double up (defenders) in the middle just to compensate for him not being there.” Fortunately for Mariner, they have another star player.
Medina, who has scored 18 goals this season, had one in that game to help Mariner overcome a 2-0 deficit and defeat the Vikings 3-2 in overtime.
“We’ve got Medina and he’s one of the best strikers in the state of Washington,” DeSimone said. “He’s really good. I’m so glad we have him.”
Last year, Mariner didn’t have him. Medina played for the Seattle Sounders Academy, which prohibited him from playing on his high school team. But for his senior year, Medina decided that he wanted to return to Mariner and play for the Marauders and DeSimone one last time.
“I wanted to play for Mariner because of Vinnie,” Medina said. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had and I have the best relationship with him. I just wanted to come play here. He believes in me like no one else has and brings out something special in me.
“I’m very, very happy I came back. I love playing for this team. I enjoy the kids. They’re my friends. I’ve been playing with Cristhian since I was 12 years old, so it’s great playing with him again. I’m just excited to go to districts and hopefully go far this year.”
The Marauders got to districts by overcoming a bit of a rough patch late in the season. Mariner dropped back-to-back games to Lynnwood and Edmonds-Woodway, the former happening with 43 seconds remaining in overtime.
“In the loss against Lynnwood, I thought it would devastate them. These kids can play good soccer. Just beautifully,” DeSimone said. “I didn’t know what the reaction would be in the locker room. Well, we got there after the game and they were very, together. It was like it was no big deal. It’s part of learning in soccer.”
It was a unique feeling for Mariner, which wasn’t accustomed to losing.
“We’re not used to it because we’ve been winning so much,” senior midfielder Carlos Rodriguez said. “What we have to do is when we get knocked down, get back up. That’s how we are as a team. We just need to get back up. Even Snohomish, they’ve lost two. It happens.”
It still hasn’t happened often for Mariner. With Robles in the field, the Marauders have turned to sophomore goalkeeper Silvan Katynskiy who DeSimone said has done a great job.
“Right now we have another keeper and we’re not really too concerned about him in the box,” DeSimone said. “Silvan has really stepped up.”
Mariner is looking to get to state for just the second time since 1993. The Marauders got to the state semifinals in 2011, before losing 3-2 to Skyline in a game that has stuck in the minds of those who played in it.
“Sophomore year we were really close to winning state when we lost to Skyline on that very — I don’t even know,” Robles said. “That game. That ref. That was seven minutes of stoppage time. That was bad. But we’ve been really close, so I really want to go to state.”
Medina said that the team wants to win a state championship for each other and for their coach DeSimone, whose son Nick played at Mariner before he was murdered about six years ago. He said that Vince DeSimone treats all of his players like they’re his sons, creating one big soccer family.
“To be honest with you I really, really want to win this for the team,” Medina said. “And also for Vince and his son. I never got to meet his son. This is my last year, I want to make it happen for him and his son. He’s just really passionate about soccer. He loves us all like we’re his sons. We all want to do it for him. We just want to win.”