Boys soccer aims to deploy more balanced attack

by Roger Wistar

For some teams, losing one of the best players in the country would be an incredible hurdle to surmount, but this year's boys varsity soccer team feels it is up to the challenge.

Gone is Umar Farouk Osman '17, who collected 19 goals and 9 assists last year en route to being named the Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. In his place, the team will need to work as a unit to generate offense.

"It will be a collective effort," said head coach Jay Thornhill. "It will mean working together to create opportunities, taking advantage of every weakness. Goals will evolve from developing a certain style of play."

Captain CY Cheng '18 agreed, noting that the team's speed may help create additional chances. "We've been doing a lot of shooting drills and making sure we score every chance we get," he said.

Last season, Cheng missed a substantial amount of time due to injury, and he said he was excited to lead a team that has hopes to challenge for the Founders League title and qualify for the New England tournament for the second time in three years.

One of the keys to the team's potential success, said Thornhill and Cheng, was an increased commitment to conditioning. Cheng noted that the team has put in extra fitness work and is paying even more attention to warm-up and cool-down routines.

In addition to maintaining energy throughout each match, Cheng said he hoped that the training would help reduce the chance of injuries, which were a severe hindrance for last year's squad.

While the team is still developing on offense, Thornhill said it should be able to rely on a strong returning core on defense and in the midfield. Backs Firas Kora '19 and Cole Maura '19 should combine with returning midfielders Cheng, Noah Allyn '18, and Saviour Anyagri '18 to help anchor the team in the middle of the field, he said.

Cheng agreed, noting the need for the team to play as one when defending. "The front line initiates the pressure while the midfield and defense make sure no opponents break our defensive line easily," he said, adding that the team's conditioning should also help in this area.

Another source of strength for the team could be returning goalie Miles O'Reilly '19, who is in his second season with the team but who missed much of last season due to injury. "We are very organized, but he sees the field at all times," said Thornhill.

Above all, Cheng and Thornhill stressed the importance of team unity and working towards a collective goal of representing the school. "The Hotchkiss community has shown great support to the team and I guarantee that we'll give our best on the field this season," said Cheng.