Another week, another shakeup in what we think we know about the boys Central League soccer scene (Spoiler alert: It’s not a whole lot). With teams as evenly matched as this, it seems to just come down to who’s hot and who’s healthy at any given time. Let’s try to make sense of it. (Records based on games reported to the Daily Times through Sept. 30.)
1. Haverford School (7-1) Last Week: No. 1
There’s only so much to say about the Fords until we see what they can do in the league. Given the strength of Episcopal Academy and the continued growth of what was a very young Malvern Prep team last year, the Inter-Ac will be daunting. While the Fords are, on paper, the class of the league, going out and proving it 10 times will be a challenge.
2. Radnor (9-4) Last Week: No. 2
The loss to Harriton is looking increasingly poor in what was a pretty chaotic game. The fact remains that the Raiders have to find a consistent offensive threat. Max Barish is a hard worker, Sasha Abadi is a good technical player who maybe isn’t a full-time attacking midfielder and there are plenty of skilled central midfielders like Alex Egg-Krings and Jacob Schultz who don’t seem to have that killer instinct in the final third just yet. Maybe set pieces are the answer for a big team that should be good in the air to get enough goals to make their defensive discipline pay dividends.
3. Penncrest (10-2) Last Week No. 5
The rubber has hit the road for Penncrest. They’re banged up and missing several key contributors, and the schedule offers no respite with Strath Haven (a 2-0 loss Tuesday), Radnor, Conestoga and Marple Newtown among the challenges that lie ahead. This move up the standings might prove temporary given those tests, but we’ll really see what the Lions are made of.
4. Springfield (8-4) Last Week: No. 4
Nick Jannelli has a team-leading nine goals, and no one else has more than two. Where that might be a challenge for some teams, consider that the Cougars have 11 other players who’ve scored. And since they’ve yet to score more than four goals in a game, there aren’t any trumped-up, get-all-the-JV-guys-on-the-score-sheet games in there. That’s 12 players who contribute each and every game who’ve stepped up and scored. That kind of depth is daunting to defend, as Radnor saw Tuesday even though it did a great job of nullifying Jannelli.
5. Episcopal Academy (7-4-1) Last Week: No. 3
The Churchmen have alternated wins and losses over the last four matches as they prepare to embark on Inter-Ac play. It seems that Matt Freese has entrenched himself as the No. 1 goalkeeper, and Ramon Gallegos and Matt De Pillis seem to be scoring enough for EA to make an impact on the league picture.
6. Strath Haven (6-5-1) Last Week: No. 6
Healthy again, the Panthers celebrated by topping a beat-up Penncrest team Tuesday. While the Panthers’ record doesn’t look particularly gaudy, consider that the only loss by more than one goal is that demolition by Springfield. If they turn around 1-0 losses to Conestoga, Lower Merion and Radnor (the latter two in overtime), the discussion over Strath Haven is drastically different.
7. Marple Newtown (8-6) Last Week: No. 7
The Tigers could be the streakiest team in the Central, losing two, then winning four, then losing four and now winning four straight. My biggest concern with Marple is that they have kept just two clean sheets all season (against Harriton and Norristown), and 6-3 games like their win Tuesday against Upper Darby don’t always translate most favorably to the postseason.
Honorable mention: Haverford (7-5, the Fords have some winnable games on the horizon, and if they can steal a win against Springfield and/or Strath Haven, they could put themselves in good playoff positioning); Penn Wood (9-1, the only loss for the Patriots is to a very good Radnor team, 2-0, in a competitive game, and they beat Haverford last week. This is a team that bears watching); Christian Academy (9-0-1, the Crusaders are winners of nine straight, including a 7-0 start to their league).