In all my years writing high school previews, never has one been tougher than boys soccer this year. Many of the top players from the top teams have graduated. Slowly, academy players are starting to return to their high schools.
FCIAC coaches are in agreement that putting together a preseason Player to Watch team is a futile effort at this point. This is the one sport where the coaches vote on a preseason poll. This is how they see it:
1) Greenwich 102 (3)
2) Ridgefield 79 (4)
3) Danbury 77 (5)
4) Staples 69 (2)
5) Ludlowe 51
6) Trumbull 48 (1)
7) Norwalk 39
8) Warde 23
Five different teams received first-place (in parenthesis) votes. That is evidence of what should be a battle for seeding coming off a year in which the league saw a great race, with Greenwich and Trumbull going through the regular season unbeaten and then, appropriately, tying for a second time in the league final.
My view has just a little deviation.
Ridgefield. When in doubt, go with the side that brings back 18 seniors and gets a top academy player in scoring threat JT Siano. The Tigers failed to make the FCIAC Tournament last season, but went 3-0-3 to close out the regular season. They get tested right away with a home game Friday against Trumbull. The school’s girls team has won the last two league titles. Now it might be the guys’ turn.
Staples. The Wreckers came close to being put in the top spot. They lost just three times in the regular season — but had six draws. They gave eventual champion Farmington a test before falling, 1-0, in the state quarterfinals. There is a lot to like about Staples, with Matt Engler at midfield and Chris Martenson on defense. There are two former academy players: midfielder Pato Elorza Perez and forward Vaughan Sealey. It has been six years since the Wreckers last made the league final and seven since they won the championship. Both streaks could end this fall.
Greenwich. The Cardinals are like comfort food when making predictions. You can never go wrong making them a contender and are almost never incorrect. The assembly line churns out another strong group to replace the graduates. There are still some good pieces back, with goalkeeper Jimmy Johnson and the dangerous Sebastian Hernandez up top. The Cardinals played in three of the last four finals and have every reason to feel positive about a return.
Danbury. The Hatters were crushed after advancing to the state final last year only to forfeit their semifinal victory because of the use of an ineligible player. They were on an incredible roll and left to wonder “What if?” Many of those players have departed, but returning are midfielders Felipe Alves and Chriss Sari, as well as goalkeeper David Mollenthiel. The Hatters say they have put the disappointment behind them, but it would be surprising if a skilled team didn’t have at least a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
Norwalk. I might be underselling the Bears — the word is this might be their best team in years and the one that will make the greatest climb up the standings. Sebastian Echeverri is as dangerous as any player in the league. The Bear Pack may be the conference’s most loyal group of soccer fans, and they could have a lot to celebrate.
Trumbull. The Eagles were hit hard after a glorious season that was derailed by Danbury in the state quarterfinals. There are holes to fill. Forward Jason Weinstein is explosive on the attack.
Preseason Honor Roll
Lucas Araujo, Norwalk
Sebastian Echeverri, Norwalk
Matt Engler, Staples
Sebastian Hernandez, Greenwich
Jimmy Johnson, Greenwich
Douglas Marroquin, Westhill
Chris Martenson, Staples
Sawyer Meehan, St. Joseph
Jared Mirgorodsky, Fairfield Ludlowe
Chriss Sari, Danbury
Ben Sasse, Ridgefield
JT Siano, Ridgefield
Max Vinyarskyy, Stamford
Jason Weinstein, Trumbull
Anthony Zarlenga, Fairfield Warde
Players To Watch
Danbury: M Felipe Alves, G David Mollenthiel, M Chriss Sari.
Darien: G David Volz, Justin van de Graaf, Danny Koenitzer, Blake Sommi, Connor Olson, Johann Tripitelli, Oliver Knight, Alex Klarer, Max Marcin, Sigard Glad.
Fairfield Ludlowe: G Max Pfleghar, G Cameron Pelle, Max Goldring, Chris Jerrild, Kieren Kilbride, Jared Mirgorodsky, Carson Rush, Connor Senecal, Kristo Boci, Ryan Burress, Nicolas Rulio, Calum Crawford.
Fairfield Warde: Anthony Zarlenga, Nate Ulman.
Greenwich: G Jimmy Johnson, M Martin Garcia, F Sebastian Hernandez, F Woojin Kwak, M Francisco Ligouri, D Ben Rifkin, M Josh Colin, M Kai Jennings, F Federico Irigoyen, M Fermin Mendive.
Brien McMahon: G Bert Santiago, D Ericsson Abac, D Joshue Balderrama, D Jonathan Mongues, D Emmett Towey, M Marcus Blair, M Peter Rivera, M George Simpson, M Edwin Villalobos, F Elias Pardo, F Marco Flores, Masai Castillero, Danny Izquierdo, Chris Ocampo.
New Canaan: Grant Carlson, Stephen Curiale, Kent Williams, Wes Farley.
Norwalk: F Sebastian Echeverri, F Maicol Ruiz, F Cristian Moncada, M Lucas Araujo, D Jon Roach.
Ridgefield: JT Siano, Alex Lust, Scooter Glass, Ben Sasse, Nick David, Jack Liquori, Christian DeVivo, Will Coffin, Niels van Beek.
St. Joseph: G Tyler Higgins, D Kenny Schneider, D Mark Leonardi, D Jack McDermott, D/M Jacob Krasznai, D/M Sawyer Meehan, M Nick Harper, M Josh Harper, F Skyler Furlong, M Carlos Barrera, F Camilo Ramos.
Stamford: Max Vinyarskyy, M Oleh Senyk, D Carlos Lopez.
Staples: M Matt Engler, D Chris Martenson, M Pato Elorza Perez, F Vaughan Sealey, D Ryan Fincher, D Nick Ambrose, D Gabe Baltierra, M Timmy Liles, M Anton Mahr, M Nick DiMasi, G Ry Cohen, G Teddy O’Kane.
Trinity Catholic: Jake Calle.
Trumbull: G Andrew Menjivar, D John Michael Recker, D Joe Piccolo, D Nicholaos Xenakis, D Bryant Recker, D/M Nick Moussavian, M Christopher Conaway, M Panayiotis Xenakis, M Matheus Santiago, F/M Andrew Restrepo, F/M Myles Summers, F/M Anthony Barreira, F Jason Weinstein.
Westhill: Douglas Marroquin, Sam Palma
Wilton: M Kevin Connolly, M John Brown, F Tim Foley, G Tyler Smith, D Andrew Bucciero, M Josh Bender, D John Zizzadoro, D Cam Berg, D Ben Lucas, D Anthony Catino, D Karl Pfeiffer, D Luke Macdonald, F Michael Zizzadoro, M Alem Sabovic, M Colin Kroll.