CLOSER LOOK: King F Ricardo Mendez

Take a closer look at Riverside King forward Ricardo Mendez and you’ll see a fearless attacker with the ability to take on, break down and beat defenders with a quick first step and three effortless strides.

Mendez can stare down defenders and then run past them, and also is a fairly prodigious poacher on front of the goal. His seven goals and three assists this season has helped carry the load for the Wolves, now a perennial playoff contender.

“I think our speed up front is going to cause problems for a lot of teams,” King coach Todd Mapes said before the season.

So far, the Wolves (14-5-1 overall, 6-1-1 Big VIII) have hung around the Inland Area Prep Soccer Top 10, but there’s some really good teams in this league, with No. 8 Riverside Poly and Corona each having at least 11 victories already this season.

Mendez scored twice in their season-opening victory over Riverside Arlington on Nov. 30, 2010, sealing a 4-2 victory with his goal in the 75th minute.

I caught up with Mendez that night just outside Riverside Unified School District Stadium.

How hard were you working to score the last goal?

“Just keep trying. And knowing that we got this, and not to give up and to try hard,” Mendez said.

Walk me through the goal.

“I had the ball and I just thought to myself, ‘I can take this guy with speed,’ and I just ran and I got my body in front of him, and in front of the last guy, I just did a quick cut inside and took the shot with my right.”

What do you think of your team’s overall performance?

“I’m happy with it. I think we could do good things this year, and even though it’s our first game I think we worked good as a team.”

How much do you work on set-pieces?

“Sometimes at practice, yeah. Every now and then we work with those set-pieces.”

What are the keys to the keys to the offense this year?

“I think good short passes and the good through-ball, and then just taking shots.”

What’s it going to take to get back to the playoffs?

“Just train hard and be committed.”

Mendez’s offensive output has been spotty in 2012. He last scored a goal on Jan. 4 but had an assist in a 2-1 win over Corona Santiago on Jan. 18. If he can get back to contributing on a regular basis, King may just make another long playoff run.

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