College of the Desert men's soccer head coach Cardenas takes role at Div. I level with Cal State Fullerton

College of the Desert men's soccer head coach Enrique Cardenas has resigned to take a full time NCAA Div. I assistant coaching position at Cal State Fullerton. (Courtesy COD Athletics)
College of the Desert men's soccer head coach Enrique Cardenas has resigned to take a full time NCAA Div. I assistant coaching position at Cal State Fullerton. (Courtesy COD Athletics)

PALM DESERT - College of the Desert men's soccer head coach Enrique Cardenas has resigned to take a full-time NCAA Div. I assistant coaching position at Cal State Fullerton, it was announced recently.

Cardenas led a dramatic turnaround of the Roadrunners program when he took over in May of 2017. Almost overnight, the Men's Soccer program improved. The hiring of Cardenas changed how Coachella Valley student athletes viewed the Roadrunners. COD Men's Soccer immediately went from perennial cellar dwellers, where few local players were even on the roster and where even fewer played at the four-year level to Conference title contenders, all while holding onto some of the best talent in the Valley and most of that talent playing at the four-year level.

Cardenas, arguably the greatest Men's Soccer player ever to come out of the Coachella Valley, a former CIF Southern Section Player of the Year at Coachella Valley High School in Thermal and the Big West Midfielder of the Year with the Anteaters of UC Irvine in 2013, had no previous collegiate coaching experience going into the COD job. For over 15 years, Community College coaches from all over California would poach the Boys Soccer talent pool in the Coachella Valley, a few statewide Soccer powerhouses would build their foundation of success on student athletes from the Valley. In one season, Cardenas cut off that spigot. His relationships with local club and high school coaches in the Valley kept the local talent in the Valley.

In his three seasons at the helm, Cardenas amassed a 29-22-11 record, far surpassing most of his predecessors and accumulating the second-best win percentage in program history, only behind Jeffrey Keane who went 41-15-9 from 1999-2001.

The 2017 season saw the rest of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference (PCAC) put on notice that there was a new title contender in town. One of those key games was a 2-2 tie at home against the 2016 PCAC Champions, a team that the Roadrunners had not even really competed with since 2008. Unfortunately, injuries and a tough schedule took its toll on the back half of Conference play and the team finished fifth in the PCAC that season.

The 2018 season was a whole different animal entirely. The team reloaded, proving that the 2017 turnaround was not a fluke. The Roadrunners not only began the season by knocking off the #3 team in the Nation, but won Conference for the first time since 1999, grabbed Coach of the Year honors, PCAC Most Valuable Player honors for Alejandro Pimentel (Thermal Desert Mirage) and PCAC Goalkeeper of the Year honors for Uriel Lopez (Palm Desert H.S.). The team also claimed the #10 seed in the CCCAA SoCal Regionals, upsetting the #7 seed in the Quarterfinals.

For the 2019 season, the Roadrunners found themselves in a new athletic conference the Inland Empire Athletic Conference (IEAC) and with a huge target on their back. As the reconstituted Conference combined several other athletic conferences into one, with Desert the favorite to repeat as Champs. Regardless of the change, the Roadrunners did well again, winning the IEAC Title, Cardenas was again awarded Coach of the Year honors and once again, Pimentel would win Conference MVP. COD was rewarded with the # 11 seed in the CCCAA SoCal Regionals.

The move to Cal State Fullerton is a reunion with two former players, as Cardenas joins Roadrunners alumni Pimentel and Jose Reyes (Cathedral City H.S.) who signed letters with CSU Fullerton on May 26th.

(College of the Desert Athletics)