A look at the local soccer teams’ prospects heading into the season.
Northeast Philly is a hotbed for soccer. Every year, teams that play their home games in the Northeast are expected to compete for a championship.
This year is no different.
In the Public League, Northeast has made a habit of winning championships, and this year its closest competition could also be local teams.
In the Catholic League, it might not be accurate to call either team a favorite, but both squads are capable of making deep runs in the playoffs, and if that occurs, anything can happen.
Here’s a look at the local teams’ prospects heading into the season.
After leading the girls team to four straight championships, Ryan Haney took over the boys program a season ago and he was happy with what he saw. The Raiders beat the teams they should have beaten and played the elite teams tough. Ryan made the playoffs and lost to Archbishop Wood in the quarterfinals.
The Raiders return talent, including four players entering their fourth season as starters.
Christian Shoemaker slides to defense, while George Montag, Jeremy Madrid and Will Stackhouse return to the midfield. The hope is these four players lead the Raiders on and off the field.
They’ll have help. Evan Kirby will work in at midfield, and Dylan Devlin will play defense.
There are holes to fill and a few question marks, but Haney believes the program is on track to compete in the tough league.
“The fitness level is up and our level of play is better every day,” Haney said. ”We could get off to a slow start until we correct some mistakes, but hopefully we can finish strong and be firing on all cylinders in October.
“We’re trying to keep everyone fresh and engaged. Injuries will happen, but we need to hang tough and play hard.”
Year in and year out, the Crusaders are among the best teams in the state. This year, John Dunlop doesn’t return a lot of talent, but if the past is any indication, the players he has should improve and guide Judge to a strong season.
Last year’s 12–4–1 record included a close loss to Roman Catholic in the semifinals. This year, the goal is to get back to the championship.
Leading the way is senior forward Marcelo Ibarra, who scored 10 goals and added eight assists a season ago. He’ll work with Daniel Machalowski and Mike Steen up top.
At midfield, the Crusaders will rely on Brendan Ritter, Jalen Barksdale, Sergio Abelardy, Joe O’Neil and Brendan McCarthy.
The defense will include Brendan Deeley, Chris Conway, Sean Moran and Nick Dolan. And at goalie, the Crusaders have three players — Chris Hunter, Tommy Iarosis and Tyler Myers — who could emerge with the job.
Dunlop is a little concerned about his team’s experience, but the talent is there.
“We are young and inexperienced but we will get better as the season goes on,” Dunlop said. “I am looking forward to challenge the players and making them a tough team to beat in the playoffs.
“We are young and have a good upside to get better each week.”
The Railsplitters missed the playoffs a season ago, but did finish a respectable 6–3 in the B Division. This year, the goal is to improve upon that mark, make the playoffs and possibly bounce up to the A Division.
Leading the charge will be midfielder Jossiah Cortes, who will work with Manny Almonte in the midfield.
The defense will be led by Anthony Hernandez and Setwinder Singh, along with goalie Dave Hehn.
The Railsplitters are still in search of someone who can score goals, but a solid nucleus is set.
“The guys we have are hard working and putting in a lot of time,” coach Neal Convey said. “The guys we have are doing a great job, leading by example. It’s just a struggle to get more guys out.
“Our goal is to get into the playoffs and if we do that, we’ll try to compete in the playoffs.”
If it were a three-man game, the Pioneers could probably compete with any team in the Public League. But numbers are a huge issue for Frankford.
The Pioneers’ top players include strikers Amadou Kamagate and Gabe Elliott. Both guys are capable scorers who could give opposing defenses fits.
At the other end, Jose Campo, a defender, has the ability to be one of the best in the Public League. He’ll also see time at midfield if the situation calls for it.
Other than that, the Pioneers have inexperienced players who are working hard, but need some seasoning before they can be called varsity players.
“We’ll fill in the best we can, but we need more players and that probably won’t happen until school starts,” said Frankford coach Rob Shelton. “The guys we have are good, but it’s tough to say this isn’t a rebuilding season.
“We need more players, but our goal is to get into the playoffs and see what happens. We need players, but I think most Public League teams will say the same thing.”
Franklin Towne Charter
The Coyotes are competitive in just about every sport they play, and the soccer team should be no exception. Last year, the team won eight games in the A Division and this year, the Coyotes have the potential to be even better.
Franklin Towne has one of the top goalies in the city in Josh Gilborges. Another star in the making is midfielder Jared Laudenslager.
The rest of the team consists of hard-working players who will provide key minutes.
“The majority of Franklin Towne’s team is underclassmen who have played together for many years,” coach Patrick Heaney said. “They control the game as one unit, not relying on one player to score.
“Franklin Towne should finish in the top three in the Public League and make a run for the championship in the postseason.”
The Eagles, who finished 13–4 a season ago, fly into the season with a strong defensive unit and a talented midfield.
The midfield will be led by David Panea, Sarval Latipov and Emanuel Molina.
The defense will include Sergey Lipatov and Quadir Bamidele.
Finding someone to consistently score could be a challenge, but coach Chris Reid is optimistic his squad can be competitive in Public League play.
“We should be relatively strong in the midfield area, allowing our team to hopefully possess the ball more and attack from all areas of the field,” Reid said.
“I hope our team improves week to week and can make a push towards the Public League playoffs. The goal is to be playing good soccer in October to challenge the very good teams in the Public League. Our work rate must be better than our opponents to be able to win games.”
The Vikings are no longer a good Public League team. They’re simply a good team. Northeast has won three straight Public League championships and has played Catholic League opponents tough in the city championship. Two years ago, it downed Roman Catholic in the city title game and last year it gave La Salle all it could handle.
The scary part is this year, the Vikings might have their best team in recent memory.
Sebastian Gimeno will stand tall at goalie for the Vikings, and coach Kraig Feldman believes he could be one of the best in the area.
The defense will be anchored by defensive midfielder Christian Oliviera and sweeper Mohammed Khalafalla.
Francisco Correia will play midfield, Amr Ibrahim and Arthur Ferreira will start at striker, and Alejandro Giraldo will play just about every position there is.
Feldman returns a team that has skill and experience playing against top teams. His hope is to keep the streak alive.
“We have really good captains and they know how to play,” Feldman said. “This isn’t a team of stars, it’s a group of guys who will work together and hopefully they’ll continue to mesh as well as they have been.
“I know this is a really special time for Northeast soccer. We’re really enjoying it and the guys are working hard.”
Philadelphia Academy Charter
It might be a small school, but since Larry Teal arrived from Cardinal Dougherty, the Chargers have become one of the top teams in the Public League.
This year, the expectations are just as high.
Leading the way will be center back Ryan Bivenour
He’ll get help from midfielders Brandon Yaletsko and Justin Delgado.
The goals will be provided by “Lou” Lare and Julian Brennan-Melo, and they’ll play in support of goalie Brendan Werner.
Teal has mixed feelings going into the year. There’s a chance the Chargers could be among the elite, but he also sees a tough Public League schedule to get through.
“I’m half expecting a rebuilding season, but so far I’ve really liked what I’ve seen on both sides,” Teal said. “Sometimes, I think we could go 9–3, other times we look like we could go 3–9. It’s crazy how the Public League is.
“There’s not a lot of difference between the top teams and the bottom teams. We hope we’re with the top teams when the season ends.”
Last year, the Bulldogs finished 14–6 and behind co-head coaches Nick Miller Good and Mike Martin, the team is poised for another strong season.
The team will be led by defenders Joe Nugent and TK Ragan, midfielder Sean McDowell and forward Caleb Rojas.
The team hopes that the leaders can take the Bulldogs to where they want to go.
“We have a good group with a strong work ethic, solid team chemistry and good fitness,” Miller Good said. “Despite losing a couple key people this season, we have a good mix of returning players and new guys on the team.
“We’re hoping to replicate and improve upon the success we had last year, when we reached the semifinals in the Penn-Jersey League playoffs.” ••