There is added incentive for the Palisades High boys soccer team to win this spring. The Dolphins have dedicated the delayed season to former teammate Shane Thomas, who collapsed following practice with his club team in Chino Hills in August and could not be resuscitated. His death sent shockwaves through the community and a memorial was held on campus for the All-City star who was going to be captain of the team in 2020-21. One of his best friends and closest teammates Mikael Moreira has not only vowed to pick up the scoring slack, but has taken on a leadership role as captain in Thomas’ place. A fiery and skilled player, ‘Mika’ was recently interviewed by Palisadian-Post Sports Editor Steve Galluzzo about the team, and his role:
PP: When did you start playing soccer? Did you play other sports growing up?
MM: I started playing soccer at around 9 years old with the American Youth Soccer Organization Region 19 in Culver City. Growing up, it was always very hard for me to get into other sports because of how passionate I was about soccer, although I often participated in occasional friendly football games with my friends.
PP: What does it mean to you to be a team captain? When did you learn you were chosen and who told you?
MM: Being selected to be the captain of this year’s varsity soccer team for Palisades has been one of the most meaningful things to me. This past August, the soccer program lost a very important member of the team, Shane Thomas. He was an amazing leader, player, and most of all, friend. When the coaching staff spoke to me about becoming the captain for the upcoming season, I was filled with emotion and gratitude. I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to represent this school and Shane’s family as best I could.
PP: What club or travel teams have you played on and how do you compare club level to high school?
MM: I have played on many club teams throughout my soccer career. I am currently playing for FRAM which is Swedish for “forward.” We are currently ranked 12th in California and 93rd in the nation. The main differences between club and high school soccer are the tactics, tempo and level of competition. The expectations and skill level required for a club team is a whole different ball game.
PP: How well did you know Shane Thomas and how has his death impacted you?
MM: Shane Thomas was a very close friend of mine. We met in the second semester of my freshman year when I began training with the soccer team. He was the first person to introduce himself to me and we progressively became closer from there. My sophomore year was the year that Shane and I became almost inseparable at school. I had both my 5th and 6th period with him, so spending so much time together brought us closer. We always talked about becoming professional players together and envisioned what that looked like in the future. After school we always walked to practice together and after practice we would walk to get food. That was the routine everyday. The day he passed away was one of the hardest days of my life. I do not remember much, all I can remember was how broken I felt to learn that someone so close to me was taken so soon. Shane was one of the most inspirational people in my life. There was always something to learn while being around him. Shane Thomas inspired me to be the most hard working, humble, and disciplined person in the room, both on and off the field no matter the circumstance. I am still in very good contact with Shane’s dad, John Thomas, who has continued to support me and inspire us for the upcoming season.
PP: Where do you live and did you consider going to a private school instead of Pali High?
MM: I live around Venice and Culver City. I attended my first semester of freshman year at Venice High and transferred to Palisades in the middle of January. No, private school was never a consideration for myself or my family.
PP: What individual or coach has made the biggest impact on you and why? What sports teams do you root for?
MM: As far as coaches go, Coach Marvin, Coach Josh, and Coach Suarez have had the biggest impact on me both as a player and a person. The amount of time and effort they dedicate to ensure that I am doing everything I can to reach my goals is what is most impactful. I believe I have developed a good relationship with them. They understand me better than any other coach I have had in the past. Aside from soccer, I look up to Shane and my dad the most. They are the most hard working and loyal people I have met. Although they are both tough on me, I know it is because they both see potential in me and want me to be the best that I can be. I am a big fan of Liverpool FC in the English Premier League.
PP: What are your future goals? Would you like to play in college and pursue a pro career?
MM: My goal is to be playing among the best players and teams in Europe in the UEFA Champions League.
PP: What Pali game stands out most in your mind and why?
MM: The game that stands out the most to me is when we played Canoga Park in the playoffs last year. It was a surreal night that was decided on penalty kicks. The stands were packed full of parents, friends, and lacrosse boys waiting for the game to end. It was easily our most attended game all season. Last year’s captain, Colton Peffer, went on to take the winning penalty to send us through to the next round. A lot of us lost our voices so bad that we could not even go to school the next day. I would say that the lacrosse boys had a small help to that victory that night by getting into our opponents’ heads before taking their penalty kicks.
PP: How many different positions have you played over the course of your career and which is your favorite?
MM: Throughout my soccer career, I have always been an attacking minded player usually playing out on the left or right wing. From time to time, I would take some reps in as a center forward but for me playing on the wing is a lot more fun because you have more opportunity with the ball to do some magic.
PP: Where does your passion for the game come from? Are you a vocal leader?
MM: My passion for soccer just comes within myself and my pure love for the game. I know what I want to do with my life and this sport. Whenever you are in a head space that is so focused on one goal… nothing can stop you. It is what motivates me to get out of bed every morning. I am a very vocal person but at the same time I am disciplined so people respect me and want to follow my lead.
PP: So who are your closest teammates? Where do you like to eat or hang out around town? Do you ever go to the Village?
MM: I would say my closest teammates at Pali are Steve Gourvits and Josh Mccowan. They are both true ballers on and off the pitch and people that I have a lot of trust in. Because of our tight schedules with training as well as Covid-19, it is hard to see each other as much as we would like, but occasionally we have burritos at Chipotle after practice. I do not spend much time in the Village because I do not live in the Palisades, but I love social gatherings we have at Garden Cafe from time to time.
PP: What are some of your other hobbies? Do you like to surf, bike ride or go to movies?
MM: Between my training with club and school as well as working at Jersey Mike’s I do not really get the opportunity to explore other hobbies. During the summer, I like to go surfing with my friends and that is always lots of fun.
PP: How hard was it dealing with COVID-19 and not having a full season last year? How did you stay sharp in the pandemic?
MM: In the beginning it was rough for me to wrap my head around a full lockdown and not being able to train with my team or school. I was very blessed to be in a household that was healthy and safe during the peak of the pandemic. I would try and run as much as possible to stay in shape and keep my endurance up for a full game. I was also lucky to have a close friend of mine that has a home gym which was nearby.
PP: Do you have any brothers or sisters? How old are they? Do they like to play sports?
MM: I have a younger brother named Rafi who is 12 years old. He says he does not like sports but deep down I know he does.
PP: What is the most goals you have ever scored in a single organized soccer game?
MM: Five. That was last year with my club team.
PP: What is a typical day like for you during the school soccer season?
MM: A typical day for me is quite long. I wake up at 6 a.m. to go do gym work with a trainer friend of mine. I then come back home at around 8 a.m. and prepare myself for school. Once school is done, I head off to school practice at 1:15. Finishing up at around 3, I get home, eat and rest until I have my club practice from 7-9 p.m.
PP: What has it been like playing for Coach Marvin Lemus? Do you appreciate that he too once played for Palisades?
MM: Playing under Coach Marvin is awesome! I look up to him a lot because of how passionate he is about coaching for Pali. Both Coach Marvin and Coach Josh spend many late nights thinking about which tactics will allow our team to perform at its highest level possible. He makes it known very often that he believes in us, but it is up to us to continue fighting and putting in the work. I love the fact that he used to play for Pali. It shows his loyalty, passion, and commitment to his school.
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