Soccer stars looking for championships

Sidiki Fofana will be one of the top players in the Catholic League this season. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Local boys soccer teams have been dominating the Public League in recent years, and traditionally, the two Northeast Philadelphia teams that compete in the Catholic League are among the best high school teams in the area.

And this year, it should be more of the same.

In the Catholic League, Archbishop Ryan and Father Judge will be battling it out with other strong teams, including Roman Catholic, Archbishop Wood and La Salle, for top spots in the Catholic League. And in the Public League, Franklin Towne Charter will look to defend its crown, while Northeast looks to get back to the top of the league. And those two are not the only local teams that will look to make a move to the top of the standings.

Here is a look at the local teams’ prospects this season.

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

Archbishop Ryan

Last year wasn’t a banner year for the Raiders, but they did have their highlights, including a huge victory over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, which was ranked No. 1 in the state, and another big win over Father Judge.

But coach Ryan Haney isn’t looking for big regular season wins, he wants big postseason wins. This year, he could get that.

Leading the way will be forward Sidiki Fofana, who is one of the most gifted goal scorers in the state. He’s not coming alone. He’ll also have help from defenders Bobby MacWilliams and Sean Horvay, midfielder Teddy Westevelt and freshman goalie Joey Philips.

The Raiders have the potential to make a long run in the playoffs, but they’ll need younger players to fill huge roles.

“We have enough talent on paper to finish top four,” Haney said. “We can compete for a PCL and a district championship.

“We need to get more players involved offensively. We have to be willing to do the work on the defensive side. I’m very excited. We have a lot of potential, but we will be young also.”

Father Judge

Last year ended in heartbreak for the Crusaders when they fell to St. Joe’s Prep in double overtime. It was a tough ending to an up-and-down season, but coach John Dunlop knows this year could be much better.

Judge has a pair of goalies looking to start in Bobby Mulvenna and Shane McMenemy. They’ll work with defenders Brendan McCarthy, Walter Fox, Conner Bradby, Roberto Ciocca, Colin Ounan and Jagger Lattimer.

The midfield includes Michael Finman, Kevin Comey, Ryan Colfer, Brett Rajowski, Conner Seeley and Michael Martins. And forwards will be Kyle Bovitt and Tim Purcell.

Providing depth for Judge will be Mark McDonnell, Tom Sweeney, Thomas Slavin, Ben Wesolowski, Angelo Primaveria, John Gallagher, Matt Slowinski and Joe Davilla.

The Crusaders have plenty of talent and lots of experience, and a big season is possible.

“We have good balance throughout the lineup,” Dunlop said. “Very experienced team returning with lots of players contributing.”

PUBLIC LEAGUE

Franklin Towne Charter

The Warriors had a coaching change at the start of the 2018 campaign, but the switch worked. Chris Logan led Franklin Towne to a 13-5-1 record, and it won the Public League championship. There’s reason for optimism because many of the players are back.

John Simpson returns at goalie. Jack Flanagan will play defense, John Levy and Colin Madgey will lead the midfield and Connor Lines will be responsible for scoring. Scott McCafferty and Dayron Herrera will also help, offensively. The Warriors have eight seniors, and seven of them started last year, so the championship pedigree is there.”

“A strong senior class will be crucial to how well the team plays and they will dictate how far Franklin Towne will progress this season,” Logan said.

Northeast

The Vikings had been the best team in the Public League, winning three straight championships, prior to last year. This year, they’ll look to get back to the top with new coach John Psoras.

He’ll have some talented players, too, led by midfielders Christian Cardenas, Phelyepe Durta, Andrew Silva-Santos and Eljo Agolli. Shalim Quinto will lead the offense with Hugens Eugene heading the defense.

There’s work to be done, but Northeast has key pieces in place for success.

“We have a lot of guys that can finish the ball, and we are looking to keep possession of the ball with quick touches and movement without the ball,” Psoras said. “We have a lot of new additions to the team and we are looking to build new chemistry. We will need to mesh well in order to compete for the championship this season.”

Philadelphia Academy Charter

Last year was an up and down one for the Chargers, but they hung tough and managed to finish with a .500 record. They have talented players back and that should help this year.

Leading the way will be goalie Brendan Werner. He’ll work with a defense headed by Dylan Ramsey. The midfield should be a strength with Steve Hoxa and Colby Owens leading the way. And Lou Lare will be counted on up top.

Chris Schlegel, who took over the program before last year, is optimistic.

“We have an all-around team that have a good understanding of one another,” Schlegel said. “I believe the chemistry between players will show this year.

“I feel we can really make a push and as long as we can stay healthy, we could really go far this year.”

Samuel Fels

The Panthers were a surprise team last year, finishing 7-2 in their division, 8-3 overall. They just missed the playoffs, however, thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.

This year, they’ll rely on a strong defense led by Abass Kamagate, Khem Kaing, Oladeji Olayinka-Yusuf and Diemesonn Brutus. They’ll also have other key players, including midfielders Kim Sieng and Kerverson Isemon.

The Panthers don’t have a lot returning from last year’s squad, but they do have enough to help the younger players while they get acclimated to playing varsity soccer.

The coach likes his defense and young talent.

“Most of our returning players played on the defensive side of the field last year, this should help us as we search for our identity. We also have a number of talented first-year players joining our program who are starting to mesh well with our returning juniors and seniors in our preseason practices,” he said.

The coach wants consistency on offense and defense.

“We were disappointed not making the playoffs last season, the juniors and seniors remember that feeling,” Fels coach Mike Keenan said. “They have set a return to the playoffs as our primary team goal.”

Swenson

The Lions were a senior-heavy team that finished 4-6 a season ago. But they showed promise, and young players did play key minutes. This year, they hope that pays off, and it will limit the pain of graduating eight seniors.

Key players include senior goalie Joshua Aguilon, senior midfielder Bryan Orellana and sophomore midfielder Luis Zamora.

“We have a young defense, centered around sophomore Luis Zamora,” coach Craig Robinson said. “With graduating eight players from the 2018 team, Swenson will be looking to restock and remain competitive in the Liberty Division.”

Washington

The Eagles went 5-8 in 2018, and the goal is to improve behind the strength of a strong defensive unit that gained valuable experience last year.

Washington returns defenders Chris Nelson, Abe Latipov and Edmond Ansah from last year’s squad. Also starring for the Eagles will be Nazar Perelyhin and Decelio Lee.

Washington has reason to be optimistic about the defensive end, but it will need help on offense.

“Defending will be a priority with three returning starters from last year and should be one of our strengths this year,” coach Chris Reid said. “Possessing the ball has been a priority this preseason, and the boys have been working hard for two weeks to keep the ball and limiting turnovers.

“I’m optimistic that this group will have more pride in themselves and the team to improve from last year’s record and compete for a playoff berth.”