Last season, the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team took the field loaded with talent, and holding some of the highest expectations in years.
But while the team allowed the fewest goals in team history, it also scored one of the lowest totals, as it was unable to put the ball in the net despite an experienced, talented group of forwards.
Now much of that team is gone, and while the Indians might not return the same level of talent, MHS coach Frank Alonso said he likes the experience and the chemistry of the group that returns.
“I like this team, we have 12 seniors, five juniors and two sophomores on varsity,” he said. “We are experienced and talented and the bottom line is you can’t buy chemistry and we have it this year, where last year it was somewhat fragmented. I think we might fly under the radar a little bit.”
The chemistry was evident in practice this week, when the team voted for and named its captains on Wednesday, two days before the team opens the season on Friday at Anneberg Park against Lawrence High.
Alonso said the vote for captain featured six guys within one vote of each other as Brett Zapletal, Josh Parker and Alex Fees were given the honor.
Fees said although he was named a captain, many on the team were worthy.
“It’s an honor that everyone wants you to lead them, but everyone on the team could be a captain out there,” he said. “We are always talking to each other and playing together.”
Parker said the chemistry is not only good within the team this season, but they are also closely connected to Alonso after playing for him over the years.
“Our team chemistry is great,” he said. “We have all played together since we were young, and Frank has been teaching us since we were young. He knows how we play.”
Alonso said the team is in an odd situation, returning many players with varsity experience, and he said it’s something that could carry into next year as well.
“We are in an unusual situation, not only for this year but actually next year as well,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of players that have varsity experience ready to step in and take their places.”
Zapletal said last year was tough because the team put in the work and got the opportunities, they just couldn’t finish with goals.
Although this year’s team might not feature the same level of talent as last season’s squad, Zapletal said they are hard working and it could make up for that.
“We’re all hard workers, we all like to put in the time — none of us our superstars,” he said. “We all like to play together and we are all at the same level.”
Alonso said they had the opportunity to be an excellent team last season, and had all the makings of a great team, they just couldn’t put it all together when they needed it most.
“Last year’s team was very talented and we had college-level players all over the place, but we didn’t perform,” he said. “They scored 26 goals last year and that’s the lowest total I’ve seen in 12 years, maybe expectations were too high.”
Alonso said this team will be a little different than some others he has coached, but he likes what he has to work with.
“I like our team, I like our makeup,” he said. “We have several leaders, and we might not look like the best team on paper, but this team is a blue-collar, hard-working team that is going surprise some teams.”