Good news: soccer is back being a fall sport.
Last year, with the exception of Archbishop Ryan High School, all of the teams in Northeast Philly played in the spring or not at all. This year, it looks like the season will go on during its regularly scheduled season, and once again, this area should be among the best.
In the Catholic League, both schools have a real shot at winning a Catholic League championship despite a very tough league that also includes powerhouses Roman Catholic, Archbishop Wood and La Salle, and in the Public League, it isn’t hard to see one of the locals winning another title.
Here is a look at what local teams have this year.
The Raiders had a memorable run last year going 7-0 in league play and advancing to the state quarterfinals.
Ryan lost some great players, but return eight of its 11 starters, including most of its defense.
Joey Phillips returns as the goalie and he’s not coming alone. Owen Stock, Jimmy McDonnell and Jarrett Lalli return in front of him, making up a defense that should be among the best in the area.
Roy Hevener, Mike Kropilak, Sean Scalen and Frankie Monaco will play midfield, with Timmy Cliggett, Eric Lopez and Deven Salvatore playing up top.
The Raiders also have some strong incoming freshmen who will see key minutes as the season goes on.
Coach Ryan Haney is optimistic, but he knows there are tough games ahead for him and his team.
“We have eight guys back from last year and they got good experience, so you hope that helps,” Haney said. “The new guys need to get up to speed pretty quickly, and we need to stay healthy, but we have an experienced team.
“The juniors are now our old heads. They’ve been playing for two years. They played in big games. That experience will help. The defense has a lot of experience, so that helps in the Catholic League.”
The Crusaders looked very sharp in the spring, going 12-0-1. It wasn’t against their usual opponents, but Judge did play a tough schedule that should prepare it for its Catholic League schedule this year.
Coach John Dunlop also has some talent to work with, and that makes Judge a dangerous team.
The Crusaders will be led by senior goalie Bobby Mulvenna, and he’ll get help from James Shelton, who played in the spring when Mulvenna was hurt.
The defense will include John Wood, Sean McKenna, Colin Stocklin, Connor Brady and Dane Pizzaro.
Brett Rajkowski, Hugh Nungesser, Michael McCusker, Kevin Castro, Dylan Boyle, Dillon Fitzgibbon, Moussa Cherif and Bradno Storace will play midfield, and the forwards will include Abou Cherif, Michael Browning and Michael Regan.
Judge worked hard in the spring and summer. That could mean great things in the fall.
“The team returns a good core of young players mixed with some experienced veteran players,” Dunlop said. “Our leadership will be our strength.
“We are looking for that momentum we had in the springtime and continue that right into training camp. I am excited for the players to get after it while sitting out the fall season due to COVID. Looking for a great year.”
The Railsplitters played well in the spring, going 5-1 and advancing to the Public League semifinals before losing to Northeast.
They also return some strong players who should help Lincoln be in the mix for another strong campaign.
Midfielders Mamadou Nianghane and Carill Asanji, both juniors, will be counted on to lead the team, as will defenders Jecton Gontee, a senior, and Joshua Roque, a junior.
Coach Neal Convey knows it takes a team effort to win, but he’s very happy he has these four players as his starting points, especially because of the leadership qualities they bring to the team.
“We have a decent amount of returning players who are not satisfied with the limited success we had in the spring,” Convey said. “Their ultimate goal is to win a championship.
“We are moving up to the top division this year. I believe that the players will react well to the tougher competition. If that’s the case, we should be a very competitive team that improves each and every day throughout the season and hopefully be the last team standing at the end of the season.”
Like the Railsplitters, the Eagles had a strong season, advancing to the semifinals, and this year should be another good one.
Coach Sean Decker has some star players early in camp and things should only get better as the preseason begins.
Leading the way will be senior defender Zarshed Mukumov, who is the unquestioned leader of the squad. Junior midfielder Akmaldzhon Tokhirov brings a lot of skill to the team, and Stephen Tetkowski, a freshman, should make an immediate impact.
Those three players bring a lot to the table, and other guys should do the same as the season nears.
“We have a few returning players that we hope can take the next step and become leaders on and off the field,” Decker said. ”Last season we struggled with the impact of COVID. This is a rebuilding year for us but we are optimistic that we can be successful.”
The Vikings have been the class of the Public League for nearly a decade, and in the spring, won their fifth championship in six seasons.
They’ll go for No. 6 this year and coach John Psoras has a lot to work with.
Northeast will start Phylepe Dutra and Bryan Santos at striker. Andres Rueda Pedraza, Sammy Sadullaev and Sebastian Senecharles Ardouin will play midfield. And all of these players could see time on defense, depending on the situation.
Northeast has made it a habit playing into mid-November and this year should be no different.
“(We have a) young, motivated group that has played together for the last couple years as JV players and are filling in the roles of nine graduated senior starters,” Psoras said. (We) have tons of talent, which hopefully translates into smart soccer.
“We look to be competitive this year but have a lot to prove. Hopefully make another great playoff run if everything comes together.”
Franklin Towne Charter
The Warriors sat out the 2020 season after advancing to the Public League championship game in 2019. This group now wants to get back to where it was two years ago.
Lucas Dolchanczyk will anchor the defense, while Brandon Kreibick will lead the midfield. Up top, Scott McCafferty and Adeyemi Michael Ekundayo will be responsible for scoring goals.
John Curry and Tim McFadden will also greatly contribute to the team’s success.
The Warriors have a lot of athleticism and it should be another good year for coach Chris Logan’s group.
“Without playing in nearly two years it was difficult to set expectations for the 2021 season, but a strong group of new players has us aiming to compete for another Philadelphia Public League championship,” Logan said.
The Panthers showed fight last year, winning three of their eight games, and they should show the typical fight the team has shown since Mike Keenan took over the program six years ago.
This year, the goal is to win a few more games to make a run in the playoffs.
The team will be led by midfielders Ameer Khattab, Isaiah Fox and Scothy Marc. Fels should also have a strong defense, led by Mohammad Khattab and Mohammad Ibrahimi.
The Panthers haven’t had a great turnout during the summer, but Keenan hopes the numbers grow once school starts.
“Our players always play hard and compete in every game. We are traditionally a slow-starting team that gets stronger as the season goes on,” Keenan said. “(Our goal) is the playoffs. We played in many close games that kept us from the playoffs the last few seasons. The team has set this as our goal.”
After opting out of the season a year ago due to the pandemic, the Lions have a lot of question marks coming into the season. They also have a lot of talent.
The team will be led by a tough defense that includes Joshua Lozada and senior Jacob Rivera, who will be one of the leaders of the team. Up top, Tacony will look to get goals from Ethan Thomas, who will see time at midfield and forward.
The season will be a work in progress for coach Dennis Park’s team, but he likes what he’s seen so far.
“The team genuinely cares for and looks out for each other both on and off the field,” Park said. “Win or lose, we are going to work until that final whistle blows.
“Inexperience might lead to a few tough stretches throughout the season, but I know for a fact that the Tacony Lions will work and improve each day becoming a far better team than when they first started, leaving the program in a good foundation for the present years to come. I’m excited this year to see the good things we can accomplish potentially.”