It seems as though Central League soccer has, in recent years, become a game for seniors. The teams that had the best seasons a year ago numbered their senior contributors over a dozen, meaning there are a lot of holes to fill this season and a lot of younger players needing to rise to the occasion.
Radnor may be the most obvious example. They replace all 11 starters – including All-Delcos Tyler Helms and Chris Martin and second-teamer Peter Donato – and 19 seniors, most of whom contributed. The only significant contributor last year from the class of 2014 is forward Fernando Sommo. Ryan Freedman will step in as the goalkeeper, and Santiago Orozco is a senior with potential that the Raiders will look to.
Strath Haven is in a similar boat. They lose All-Delco Christian Belanger among a number of other contributors. Sean Myers is back on the forward line, and Kevin Murphy gained experience in the backline a season ago, where he’ll have to step into Belanger’s shoes. The midfield could become an area of strength. Nate Engelka will be the anchor of the unit, while Aiden Molloy and Dylan Pratzner will also have to contribute. The Panthers have team speed, the question is how much veteran poise and technique will accompany that.
Upper Darby replaces all 10 of its outfield starters from a districts team last year as well. About the only place they have depth returning is the only place where it’s an either-or proposition: In goal, where Ryan Johnson and Ryan Hanrahan will battle for a job that the former took control of late last season. The attacking void will be difficult to fill, but the talent pipeline runs deep for the Royals. Look for Kelvin Paye, who impressed late last season, to step up.
Springfield isn’t immune either. They lose All-Delco goalkeeper Dave Sousa and defender Kyle Chevalier, anchors of one of the stingiest defenses in the county a season ago. The replacements there may take some time to figure out, but the likes of Dan Mackowiak and Mark Gorman are veteran returnees. The game-changer may be Nick Jannelli, who showed plenty of skill as a freshman but will be called upon to deliver those performances more consistently.
Marple Newtown could be a sleeper in the league. Last season was rough, but coach Charlie Dodds took his lumps with a group of freshman who could blossom this season. Among them are forwards Hunter Dyson and George Lambritios.
Penncrest lost a large part of the team that went 7-7-4 last season, including Swarthmore signee Mike Swantek. But they return a notable junior class that could make waves. Ricky Vogler is a strong playmaker in the midfield, and Brendon O’Boyle and Jude Morgan will anchor the defense. If they can goals from freshman forward Sam Brown on a consistent basis, they could stake claim to a place in the Central League’s top half.
Haverford is coming off a four-win season and will be piloted by former JV coach Jeff Jackson this season. They have a pair of varsity goalkeepers returning in Sebastian Stelmach and Andrew Lake, an area of relative strength last season. Also back are Ryan Brown, Kyle Hartley, Owain Thorogood, Kyungchui Yoon, Cooper Michaelis, Alex Mack and Ryan Kirby.
Garnet Valley will look to recover from last season’s two-win season with a new coach in Jimmy Wallace. Injuries conspired against the Jaguars to make season rougher than their talent warranted. John Schwien is back after knee surgery, and forward Chris Miele will contribute once he shakes off a hamstring injury. Goalkeeper Conner Bradley is also back after a bright start to 2012 that was cut short by injury.
Ridley’s strength could be in goal, where Pat O’Neill comes back after a good deal of experience there last year. The goalscoring threats include Esteban Munoz and Romario Elbasani.