With the new year just around the corner, I’m already looking towards the future. As I try to do each season, I’ve gone through many, many rosters in the last few weeks to identify which teams look like they have the most talent coming back for next season. This usually works out best right after the season ends so that everything is still fresh in my mind. Of course, these days with soccer there’s always the chance that a player who you think is coming back could get swooped up by an academy team, but I’ve gone ahead and listed anyone who wasn’t a senior this past season as a returner.
What’s important to note is that I have received information from a few reliable sources indicating that the enrollment cutoffs for each class are expected to change slightly, which means a couple of the larger schools in each class could get bumped up. Nothing is official yet, but as of right now, it sounds like Port Chester and John Jay may move up from Class A to Class AA, and that Ardsley and Lourdes may move up from Class B to Class A. The move for PC would be especially notable because that could completely change the section title outlook in Classes AA and A. For the purpose of this exercise, I did my rankings assuming that those changes will be implemented, but I will repeat, none of this has been confirmed by Section 1 yet. That determination likely won’t be made until sometime in early 2013.
Now that we’ve clarified that, here is a very early look at the favorites in each class for 2013. If there is an * next to a player’s name, that indicates that he was a sophomore in 2012. If there is **, that indicates that he was a freshman this past season:
Key losses: Jeff Greblick, F; Alex Fazio, GK; Collin Illiano, D; Ryan Miller, MF; Stephen Jennings, MF; Matthew Povall, MF.
Key returners: David Verdis, F; Kevin Hoff, D; Peter Garson, F; Pat Mogan, D; Nik Linnane*, F; Vincent Colantuno**, MF
Outlook: The names that the state champs are losing are some big ones, but when you win the final game of the season, you’re staying at No. 1 until someone beats you. It also helps you when you pretty much have a minor league system in place to develop talent, which the Admirals have with a varsity, varsity B, JV and JV B team. That ensures that Arlington will reload much more often than it rebuilds because talent is constantly working its way up through the program. Greblick took his game to a new level in the postseason to provide tremendous scoring punch, but coach Craig Sanborn rotated several forwards for a reason. Verdis proved to be a capable scorer himself, and he should assume the lead role in that department. But undoubtedly, it’s the depth for the Admirals that should allow them to defend their title effectively.
2. Port Chester
Key losses: Jose Gonzalez, GK; Bryan Suertegaray, D; William Ribiero, MF; Preston Higgins, MF; Alexis Valdovinos, D
Key returners: Steven Hernandez**, F; Alejandro Coyt, MF; Josiah Marin, D; Luis Morales*, F; Rodrigo Campos*, F, Kevin Londono*, D; David Pena*, D
Outlook: This is bad news for the rest of Class AA. Despite the fact that the Rams could go from the largest school in Class A to one of the smallest in AA and will have an entirely new field of teams to deal with, most coaches have little doubt that PC will be highly competitive. Could the Rams have beaten eventual state champ Arlington this past season? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I’m pretty confident calling them the two best teams in Section 1. Many of their key players were seniors this past season, and replacing Gonzalez in goal will be an especially daunting task, but I learned this year not to get caught up with the players lost when it comes to this program. Depth is never a question at PC, and there is always fresh talent coming up through the ranks. Coach John Cafaldo will bring back his best player and most proven scoring threat in Hernandez, plus a handful of others who received significant playing time. The Rams should be right in the mix for a section title in 2013.
3. White Plains
Key losses: Daniel Murillo, D; Alejandro Romero, GK; Christian Vergara, MF; Kevin Ortega, MF
Key returners: Derlis Zayas, MF; Shiloh Alexander, F; Omar Figueroa, MF; Brian Vasquez, MF; Robbie Ozuna, D; Oscar Leon, D; Leo Fisher*, D; Daniel Guerra-Mejia*, MF.
Outlook: I know what you’re thinking. After back-to-back first round playoff exits, it’s becoming difficult to trust the Tigers. They always seem to look so good during the regular season but flame out at the end. All of this may be true, but it’s difficult to deny the caliber of talent that White Plains is bringing back. Coach Marcel Galligani will return seven of 11 starters, including reigning league MVP Zayas and leading scorer Alexander. Remember, the Tigers were the only team in Section 1 to make it through the entire regular season without losing to a Section 1 opponent, they just ran into a red-hot Carmel team at the wrong time in the playoffs. Zayas will enter the season as a leading candidate for player of the year, and with his leadership, White Plains should finally be able to end its playoff woes.
Key losses: Jason Henderson, D; Vincent Gandolfo, MF; Evan Hendel, F/MF; Daniel Capelin, GK; Nicolas Penfold, MF; Matt Ellman, D
Key returners: Alex Gaujean, MF; Zach Cromwell, MF; Gabriel Harousseau*, MF; Jonny Dorf*, MF; Brandon Bank*, D; Richie Gutierrez*, MF; Zach Marcus, F; Yusake Endo, MF
Outlook: The Raiders have become one of those programs that you can expect to be competitive each and every year. They made a tremendous run to the semifinals this past season and only lost to eventual state champ Arlington by one goal. There are some key players who will be graduating, notably in the back with Henderson and Capelin, but Scarsdale had a very strong sophomore class that will be one year better in 2013. Coach Joseph Cipriano always seems to find ways to squeeze the most out of what he has, and I know he was very high on this sophomore group when we spoke. Gaujean will also return as a senior to lead the team after arguably being the Raiders’ best player last season. With White Plains and Mamaroneck also bringing back significant pieces, this league should be a meat grinder.
Key losses: Felipe DaSilva, MF; Joffre Portilla, MF; Phillip Rodriguez, D
Key returners: Abdul Byabusha*, MF; Sergio Matias, F; Anthony DeJesus*, GK; Steven daFonte, MF (pictured to the left); Diego Patino*, F; Luis Montes*, F; Demitrios Moyla, D; Alejandro Alvarez, MF
Outlook: The Pride are my sleeper pick for 2013. They may have failed to make it out of the outbracket round this season, but Ossining had three seniors on its entire roster this past season. Aside from DaSilva, this team will bring back all of its key players. Coach Joe Scamarone used a number of young players who are capable scorers, so this offense should be versatile, and Byabusha will be a force in the midfield. The Pride also return a talented young keeper in DeJesus, and all of that continuity should be valuable. Ossining showed that it could hang with some of the top teams in section, most notably in a late season tie against Class A state runner-up Port Chester, and should take a step forward next season.
Also look out for: Horace Greeley, John Jay-East Fishkill, Mahopac, Mamaroneck, North Rockland
1. Byram Hills
Key losses: Jon Berry, F; Ryan Golden, GK; Joshua Beinhacker, MF; Justin Pollack, MF; Justin Godner, MF; Matt Mendelsohn, D; Brett Roston, MF
Key returners: Sam Ganeles, D; David Lachs, MF; Sam Potash, MF; Yianni Lambos*, MF; Cole Tannor*, MF; Bennett Kramer*, F; Petton Levine, D
Outlook: If I’m being completely honest, I can’t sit here and say that the Bobcats will be a better team in 2013 than they were this year. With the depth that coach Matty Allen has developed, this team will always be a contender, and they have plenty of up-and-comers who should be ready to step in and fill roles. But of course, the big void left will be Berry’s up top. The Section 1 large school player of the year was the most irreplaceable striker in Class A, and finding ways to make up for the scoring that he provided will not be easy. It will have to be more of a combined effort for Byram to win its first section title since 2010, but there are enough pieces to get it done. Ganeles is a versatile player who will probably be pushed up more next season, and others such as Lachs, Tannor and Lambos also seem ready to take on expanded roles. And let’s face it, it certainly won’t hurt if Byram’s nemesis Port Chester ends up in Class AA.
Key losses: Max Sorice, MF; Ely Masson, MF; Anthony Rivera, D; Robert Young, MF
Key returners: Aidan Murray, F; Charlie Livingston, MF; Ricarti Basso, MF; Otavio Basso*, D (pictured to the right); Will Baffuto*, D; Matthew O’Neill**, GK; Wilgner Bruscargin, F; Jefferson Santos, MF
Outlook: It would be very easy to make a case for the Pelicans in the top spot, but with Byram’s recent history (including knocking Pelham out of the playoffs in the quarters this year), I’m putting them at No. 2 for now. No team in Class A is bringing back as many key contributors as the Pelicans are. They will return the majority of their starting lineup, and truthfully, nearly all of their top players. Murray will be one of the most lethal strikers in the section, but there will be talent all over the field. They’ll need to find ways to ease Murray’s scoring burden, but aside from that, Pelham will enter the season with very few question marks. In each of his first two seasons, coach Terence Huvane has led his team to impressive playoff wins, and 2013 looks like it could be the year that they make a run for a title. This is certainly a program on the rise.
Key losses: Gonzalo Prando, MF; Timmy O’Driscoll, MF; Andrew Mitgang, D; Patryk Seweryn, F; Alen Pepic, D; Landy Lopez, MF; Chris Jiminez, MF; Stefan Rudovic, MF
Key returners: Reggis Mora, GK; Jon Pinto, D; Johnny Denis**, MF; Gino Cassese*, D
Outlook: The Hornets will take some heavy hits from graduation, but they’ve been one of the most consistent programs in Class A in recent seasons, along with PC and Byram. They may have had the deepest midfield in the section this past season, but that won’t be the case in 2013. Once again, Lakeland will have to adjust its style, but with some top defenders and an experienced keeper in Mora returning, this team could conceivably revert back to the type of defensive philosophy that won them a section title in 2011. A key will be the continued development of Denis. Outside of Port Chester, he may have been the best freshman in the section, and he should become one of the top players in the area in the next few years, especially as he grows physically. With some up-and-coming talent to go along with one of the most prepared and dedicated coaches in the section in Tim Hourahan, I’m not expecting the Hornets to make a significant drop.
Key losses: Nick Fecci, F; Harold Aryee, F; Jacob Blueglass, MF; Ryan Humphrey, D; Craig Conecoff, D
Key returners: Ian Warren, MF; Aaron Mazzola, D; Ryan Nealon, GK; Zach Lichtman*, MF; Rodolfo Lepe, D
Outlook: Coming off of a run to the semifinals under first-year coach James Palumbo, the Tuskers should enter 2013 with high hopes and confidence. They’ll be strong defensively with key starters returning in the back, most notably Nealon, who should be one of the top keepers in the section. As I feel like I preach all of the time, keeper is probably the most important position on the field once you get into the postseason. The other key position is where the Tuskers will need to prove that they can get it done. Fecci and Ayree did most of the goal scoring up top, so replacements will need to emerge. Warren was probably Somers’ best midfielder, and may be asked to contribute more offensively. One thing that we found out in Palumbo’s first year is that this team knows how to win when it counts.
Key losses: Anders Fleming, MF; Ben DiRocco, D; Wendy Jean, F; Jon Rizner, GK; Liam Cronin, MF
Key returners: Gabe Rivera, D; Kayode Tyler, F; Michael Sullivan, D; Tyler Yassky, MF; Matt Miller-Sushet, D; Jon Zajonc, MF.
Outlook: If 2012 was all about gaining respect back around the section for the Indians, 2013 should be about taking the next step. Nyack went from not even qualifying for the playoffs last year to winning its league and advancing to the quarterfinals this past season, so the bar has been raised. With more than half of their starters returning, the Indians will be in position to continue their success. Losing league MVP Fleming will hurt, but coach Hal Stone will bring back a capable scorer up top in Tyler and a very solid defensive unit. They won’t be sneaking up on teams anymore, so Nyack will have to bring its A-game on a consistent basis, but the culture here has clearly changed.
Also look out for: Beacon, Harrison, Keio, Lourdes, Yonkers
Key losses: Nick Pottenger, D; Brenden Freedman, D; Adam Meyerson, D
Key returners: Tom Young, F; David Villalobos, MF; Javier Casado, F; Phillippe Peinado, MF; Josh Newman*, GK; Jason Miller*, MF/F; Simeon Balev, MF/F
Outlook: In my eyes, the top spot looks like it comes down to either Edgemont or Valhalla. Both teams made it to the semis, and both return a ton of talent. But what the Panthers will have that perhaps no other team in the section will be able to match is all of their starters from the midfield up coming back. Of the 53 goals that Edgemont scored in 2012, players who accounted for 47 of them are returning. That’s some serious offensive production that isn’t going anywhere. Young is the big name, but there are a handful of threats that opposing teams will have to account for. Coach Mike Cozzi will have to replace most of his defense, but having a returning keeper like Newman should give him some comfort in the back. Class B proved to be very deep this past season, but the Panthers look like they’ll have as good of a shot as anyone.
Key losses: Nicholas Oliveira, D; Joseph Lovecchio, MF; Robert Fiorell, D; Nick Tarantino, D
Key returners: Jose Robinson, F; Alex Briganti, GK; Yuto Tobin*, MF; Alvaro Alvarado*, MF; Joel Viveros, MF; Fernando Martinez, MF; Steven Kopicki*, MF; Kaio DaSilva**, F
Outlook: The Vikings ended the season playing as well as any team in the class, which semifinal opponent North Salem could certainly attest to. They’ll enter next season in a very similar position to Edgemont with pretty much all of their key pieces returning from the midfield up. The one loss that could hurt is Lovecchio, who was this team’s leader in many ways and best midfielder. Just like Edgemont, Valhalla will also be trying to replace three of four starting defenders, but again, Briganti returning to man the goal will be critical. This team was playing a very cohesive brand of soccer by the end of the season, and the hope is that momentum will carry into 2013. Coach Sandro Prosperino has this program moving in the right direction, and next season could be when it all comes together.
Key losses: Brewster Warble, MF; Louis Florio, MF; Duncan Colquhoun, MF; Ned Carpenter, D; Nico Bardin, MF
Key returners: Jack Connors, GK; Sam Aherne**, F; J.P. Donohue, D; William Hutchinson, MF; Sam Wagner, D; Matt Wagner, MF; Ricardo Timoney**, F; Michael Crawford*, D; Matthew McCloskey*, MF
Outlook: An unexpected first-round exit will haunt the Broncos throughout the offseason, but I look at that loss as more of an aberration than a trend. Bronxville has been the most consistent team in Class B for the past decade, which is why I wouldn’t go expecting this team to fall off of the map. Coach Donny Lucas knows how to win, and he’s returning enough to get it done. Connors will be regarded as one of the top keepers in the section, and Aherne is an emerging weapon up top. There were a handful of other underclassmen who received playing time this season, and they’ll all be one year better. Mix them in with some experienced upperclassmen and the Broncos should have the pieces make a run at another title. One thing is for sure – they’ll be coming out with something to prove.
Key losses: Arthur Kaufman, D; Dan Jablanski, MF; Jon Weiner, D; Juan Sanchez, D
Key returners: Jon Cabeca, F; Joe Ventura, MF; Kevin Louie, GK; Marco Christiano, MF; Drew Shapiro, D; Dan Ventura, MF; Sam Hahn*, D
Outlook: The Bears had a tremendous season while using several young players, which has them in prime position entering 2013. In what has become a theme in these rankings, I like their chances because they’ll be bringing back their top striker in Cabeca and keeper in Louie. Factor in that Briarcliff also returns the majority of its starters, and the future looks bright. Kaufman was one of the top defenders in the section, and the defensive unit will be hit the hardest by graduation. But if coach Brandon Beck can shore up those holes, the Bears should be right in the mix for a section title.
5. Blind Brook
Key losses: Ben Seguljic, GK; Jake Starr, D; Zach Streichler, D; Ross Elmaleh, MF; Samuel Nadell, MF; Jacob Benzaquen, MF; Gregory Popper, MF
Key returners: Joe DiBerardino, F; Brad DeSanctis, D; Jeff Visoky, MF; Jacob Berk, MF; Sebastian Blanco, MF; Brendan Luke, D; John Argentino*, F/MF
Outlook: The losses for the Trojans will be significant, but there was no way that I could have left the two-time section champs out of the top five. Of course, replacing the reigning Westchester/Putnam player of the year in Seguljic will be a tall order, but we said the same thing going into this season when they lost Lucas McBride. Blind Brook will also lose its top defenders, so things could get a little messy in the back before they sort everything out. A bright spot should be DiBerardino, who emerged as the Trojans’ most capable scorer by the end of the season. We know he’ll be slotted in up top, but the rest of the starting lineup is going to need to fill in around him quickly. One thing that we know at this point is that it wouldn’t be wise to count Blind Brook out.
Also look out for: Irvington, Kennedy, North Salem, Pleasantville, Solomon Schechter
Happy Holidays everyone!