Michael Cancelliere has been around for some great times.
Cancelliere is a junior center midfielder on the Holy Ghost Prep High School soccer team. And he’s been a starter and one of the most dangerous weapons on the Firebirds since he arrived from his Winchester Park home.
When you play a lot of games, you see a lot of cool things. But without a doubt, one of the best moments of his high school career was when someone else scored a goal.
Especially when it’s someone he’s extremely close to.
This year, Holy Ghost isn’t enjoying its best season. The Firebirds are 7-8, but lately they’ve been playing much better, winning four of their past six games.
Their losses were tough ones, too. They smaller school loaded up its schedule and played tough Catholic League teams like Archbishop Ryan, La Salle and Roman Catholic, so while the record isn’t what they want, it’s still a respectable season.
But the highlight of Cancelliere’s soccer career came this year when his brother Matt, a freshman, scored his first goal of the season.
The goal was historic for Holy Ghost because it was the first goal ever scored at the school’s new turf field.
“My brother scoring the winning goal, 500 people there, it was so loud, it was everything you’d want in an opening game,” Cancelliere said of the goal. “It was the best experience i had playing for Holy Ghost. It meant more because it’s him. We’ve been playing together since he was born. That was the best moment I ever had.”
For his little brother, too.
“It was really cool,” said Matt Cancelliere, a striker. “I got subbed in late in the game, another freshman crossed it, I was in the right place at the right time. I finished it, and after that I blanked out, it was crazy. It was the first goal of the complex, so it was history.”
The brothers will always remember that night earlier this season because it was a huge event with lots of fans and lots of celebrating.
They earned that.
They earned it by working so hard when there weren’t 500 people cheering their every move.
And now they’re both learning their role on the Firebirds.
Like his brother, Michael came in and started right away as a freshman. That year, the Firebirds had a good team and they advanced to the playoffs. At the time, he was just trying to find his way and help out any way he can.
“We had a really good team that year and actually we expected more, we lost in the first round of the playoffs,” Michael said “But a good year for my development. I got used to things, good for me at least.
“Last year we had a really good team, but lost in the semis of districts. That was probably the best season we had. And we beat Conestoga, they were one of the best teams around.”
During that time, Michael was lucky. He had great older teammates to learn the ropes from.
Now, his brother is in the same place.
Well, he might have it a little easier. Because unlike Michael, who had to turn to other Firebirds, Matt has a guy he can turn to at any time – Michael.
“I looked up to him before (we got to Holy Ghost),” Matt said of his brother. “When he would play, I would go to every game. I would actually be the ballboy at home games, so I knew the guys on the team. It was family. They were all welcoming me when I made varsity.
“It’s easier with him being here. Definitely. It feels more comfortable. He’s a great leader, he’ll tell me what to do, what not to do, help me out. We’ve always been like this. We’ve been close our whole lives and he helps me a lot.”
That’s by design.
The older Cancelliere knows his little brother is a talented player, so when he helps him become a better player, he’s helping the Firebirds. But that’s just a huge bonus.
The boys are close and have always helped each other. And Matthew is just paying it forward after he had the same support as a youngster.
“When I got here, there were so many people who helped me become better,” Michael said. “I am that guy for my brother, I try to do what they did. I try to make them feel comfortable. I think it’s helped me become a better leader.”
Together, the boys are working hard to make the Firebirds the best they can be.
It’s not easy, especially when you play the type of schedule Holy Ghost has. This isn’t a strange season, the Firebirds load up every year.
And while this season hasn’t churned out the results they had hoped for, things are looking up. And they’re getting the experience and touches needed to have a great season next year, which will be a big one for Michael.
“We don’t go away, we’re always in the fight no matter who we play we’ll make it a tough game,” said Michael, who will be a senior during the 2024 season. “I try to do the same, I’ll do anything for the success of this team. Whatever role it takes, defense, offense, I’ll get it done so the team can succeed.
“This year, I think we have a lot of young talent. We have eight guys who played in national championships for their club teams, and we have a lot of experience even though they’re so young. They’ll just keep getting better.”
His younger brother, unsurprisingly, has the same outlook.
“I think our team is very hardworking, we’re super young, a few freshmen and sophomores, but we’re a hard-working team,” Matt said. “We’ll always stay in the game because of that. We have a lot of talent and we’re working hard to get better.”