Arguably the most difficult position on the soccer field to replace a proven star is at the striker position (it has to be either that or goalkeeper). Having a go-to scorer that a team can count on for double digit goals each season makes any coach’s job a lot easier, with the alternative being uncertainty in crunch time.
Last season, the top weapon in Section 1 was Jon Berry (pictured above), who scored a whopping 28 goals for Byram Hills. As we look ahead to the 2013 season, one of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is: Will there be another player in the area who has a similar type of offensive year?
The answer may be no, as 28 goals means you’re scoring almost two per game. That’s a heck of a pace. But there are several players who come to mind that will probably challenge for the Section 1 scoring title.
The guy who may have the most physical talent to get it done is Pelham senior Aidan Murray. He’s one of the bigger strikers in the section, and he also may be one of the fastest. Murray is fun to watch, and is a well-known commodity among opposing coaches. He’s been getting the man-mark treatment for a few years now, and this season will be no different. The only question with Murray is, with such a strong supporting cast, will he defer at times? His total last season was respectable with 12 goals, but certainly not the type of number that will lead the section.
If you look to the team that many consider to be the best in Section 1, Arlington senior David Verdis could be a candidate. He received significant playing time up top on the Admirals’ run to a Class AA state title, and will now be the go-to guy with Jeff Greblick having graduated.
There are a trio of players that have returned for their senior seasons after putting up lofty totals for Class B schools as juniors. Irvington’s Ben Ovetsky (20 goals in 2012), Briarcliff’s Jon Cabeca (19; pictured to the right) and Edgemont’s Tom Young (19) were some of the top scorers around last year, and I know don’t expect that to change. Each of those three have proven that they can score at high rates, and now we’ll see if they can duplicate that success (and yes, I know that Edgemont is now a Class A school).
Could the leading scorer be someone who doesn’t play up top? If so, the guy who many would point to is Yonkers senior midfielder Chris Cruz. He’s put up big numbers before (21 goals and 23 assists as a junior), and the Bulldogs will play some teams that he can probably put up some multiple-goal games against. He’s definitely the favorite to lead the section in total points.
Of course, the looming underclassman threat is Port Chester sophomore Steven Hernandez, who showed us last postseason that he is capable of scoring in bunches. He scored seven goals in seven playoff games after being moved to striker. But while Hernandez is a prime candidate to lead the section in scoring in coming seasons, would that be too much to ask at such a young age?
These are all just guesses at this point, but in due time, we’ll find out who will be the next Jon Berry…
File photos from The Journal News