Malibu United Brings Adult Soccer Players Together

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Malibu United Soccer Club

James Whalen began coaching Gabe Bonetti’s Malibu AYSO team when Bonetti was 12 years old. He coached him through several local club teams, as well as the Malibu High School (MHS) soccer team. Now the two are teammates in the Malibu United soccer club. 

Stories like Whalen and Bonetti’s are not uncommon for Malibu United. The club was founded by Whalen, David Simpson and the late Frank Page in 2001, and has seen a number of talented players over the years. 

“Both David and I coached the high school, and a lot of the guys at the high school later join the Malibu United team,” Whalen said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with a lot of players I’ve coached and even my own son. We’ve had players from all over the world play for Malibu United. Some have played at the university level. Some have moved out here for the movie business.”

Malibu United is currently made up of one team with a roster of around 12 players. The team competes in seven versus seven games with the Santa Monica Adult Soccer League (SMASL).

Due to players’ work schedules and the difficulties of getting field time at MHS and Malibu Bluffs Park, team members get their practice in both on their own and at community “kick arounds” at Trancas and Malibu Bluffs parks. 

“It’s a real community thing,” Whalen said. “These pickup games will have kids from age 12 to guys who are 70.”

Simpson said the club sometimes recruits new players from the kick arounds as well.

“We encourage them to come to one of our open kick arounds, and if they are a good fit on and off the field, then we invite them to join the team,” he said. 

Whalen mentioned, however, that these weekly events can be difficult in winter months due to a lack of lighting at the park.

“David used to organize a real good community thing where some of the younger kids would play with the adults in the old MHS gym on the darker nights,” he added. “It would be really cool to get that going again.”

Despite a sporadic practice schedule and players’ various work lives, Malibu United has displayed both success and consistency throughout the years. 

“The majority of the team has remained the same over the past five to six years,” Bonetti said. “For each new season, we will have two or three changes at the most. Sometimes players move away or get a bad injury, so we bring in new ones.” 

“The team gels together because we have good organization and people know what to do and what positions they play,” Whalen added. “Some of them have played on the high school together and won the CIF championship, and many have played at a higher level.”

Malibu United recently took home the SMASL spring league championship for the second year in a row, beating nine other teams and finishing the season with a 7-1-2 record. Bonetti led the team in goals with 16, and Munny Manak was the assist leader with 17. 

“We were hit with a couple of injuries early in the spring season, and that hurt us a bit,” Simpson said regarding the spring season. “We also had to shuffle around our goalkeeper situation due to time commitments. Overall, we were able to come together and squeak out a few wins in some really close games.”

“I think the consistency helps the team win,” Whalen said. “These guys have known each other for years. It’s a real community thing.”

Like Whalen, several Malibu United players are involved with coaching MHS teams and local AYSO programs as well. 

“James Whalen is fantastic,” Bonetti said of his former coach and current teammate. “He has always motivated me and pushed me to work my hardest. We have a great relationship, on and off the field.”

The team will begin summer league play this month, and Bonetti, Simpson and Whalen agree that they would like to see another league championship, especially since certain players plan to return from being injured. 

When it comes to the team’s plans, Whalen said he hopes the club will eventually be able to gain field time at either MHS or Malibu Bluffs Park. 

“I would like for the league to actually play in Malibu again,” he said. “I’d also like to see somebody step up and get the gym again in the winter months.”