Building a Successful Program: How Coach Eddie Soto Brought CSUDH Soccer Back

Eddie Soto won CCAA Coach of the year for the 2022 season. Photo by Javier Perez

By Javier Perez, Sports Editor

It’s a fresh summer night in Carson, California. The smell of the recently watered soccer (fùtbol) pitch fills the atmosphere of Dignity Health Sports Park. California State University, Dominguez Hills is playing their annual match inside the Los Angeles Galaxy’s stadium, and it is nothing short of a spectacle. 

The Toros are up 2-0 well into the second half, but CSUDH coach Eddie Soto isn’t satisfied with the result. He paces up and down the sideline, squatting, placing his hands on his face, touching the grass on the sideline before shouting, “Keep building!” at his players. 

Then, a penalty for Sonoma State University. A 2-0 lead is the hardest lead to keep, and coach Soto knows it. In a moment of pure heroics by goalkeeper Sebastian Ascenscio, the shot is deflected. Sonoma gets back on the scoreboard eventually, but CSUDH calls the game with a 2-1 win. 

The win comes at a crucial moment in the season. CSUDH has proven to be a seasoned team this time around, completing a redemption arc after falling short last season. Now, they look to culminate a process that started three years ago. At the very heart of this team however, is coach Eddie Soto, the embodiment of what it is like to live and breathe soccer in Southern California. 

Coach Soto was brought on as the CSUDH head soccer coach in 2019, replacing interim coach Sean Lockhart. Coming into the 2019 season, the team had run itself down, finishing its 2018 season with a record of 4-13-1. Between a forgettable season and a controversial absence of ex-head coach Joe Flannigan, coach Soto had a clear task ahead of him, to rebuild a program. 

Before joining the Toros, coach Soto had spent 4 years as head coach at the University of San Francisco. During his tenure at USF, Soto would drive from Long Beach to San Francisco. So when the opportunity to coach a team back in SoCal presented itself, he headed back south to join CSUDH. 

“It was a way to get back to my community,” Soto said. 

Soto was born in 1972 in Southern California. Son of immigrant parents, his experiences form part of his philosophy today. “I’m a byproduct of the system, I grew up playing soccer in Orange County and Cerritos,” Soto said. 

His record as a coach and a player speaks for itself, working in some of the most prestigious soccer programs in Southern California. “Working at UCLA, the LA Galaxy, and with U.S. Soccer, I learned how to manage both the player and the experience.” 

Nevertheless, coach Soto’s drive is a reflection of his upbringing. His biggest virtue is his devotion to his community. “I want to give back. The sport has given me so much, to travel, to see the world. The fact that I get to give back is so rewarding,” Soto affirmed. “My dad and uncle have always been there for me. If it wasn’t for the love, support, and patience they provided me, things would’ve been different.” 

So, when needing to build a program, coach Soto sets strong foundations. It all starts with the staff. “My staff all bring great qualities. We all do our work to really bring what kind of student athletes we want.” 

When it comes to the athletes, coach Soto puts a big emphasis on his responsibility to create an encouraging environment. One that allows players to thrive. That all translates into the product that is presented onto the field.

“The environment we create, we constantly communicate and challenge everyone. We want them to be leaders, engage in the community, and excel,” he said. “My philosophy is fun to play and even better to watch.” 

Now well into their fourth season, coach Soto is teaching his players a valuable lesson; how to grow from adversity. 

“When you look at last year’s [2019] team, we had a nice run. But they weren’t ready for it. We needed to fail to get where we are now. I’m proud of my guys for that.”  

Now CSUDH boasts a dangerous and versatile team. From the front to the net, Soto’s boys seem steadfast in continuing to grow. The product that Soto has cultivated isn’t just present in the field, it’s present in the attitude of every single person in that locker room. Much like the Sonoma State game, learning to be able to reset and find another option. Resilience is key to those moments that make or break a winning team. Even when a lane closes, you just have to keep building.