Editor’s note: The Northeast Times originally planned to publish the boys Public League soccer preview last week online, but held off a week until it could be placed in the print edition in most circulation zones. We apologize for the confusion, and appreciate the readers’ patience during this busy time in NE Philly sports.
As is the case at the end of every summer, excitement is abound with the new fall sports season, and this is no different in the case of boys soccer in the Public League. The league consists of six respected area programs vying for position and respect in an ever-challenging Public landscape. Once again, the boys of George Washington, Northeast, Frankford, Lincoln, Fels and Franklin Towne Charter will begin the season with hope for a championship; most importantly, they hope to compete hard and enjoy the throes of another fantastic season.
Here’s a closer look:
Last season: 13-1-1, won Public League championship
Excellence in boys soccer has become the norm for the Eagles, whose only loss last year came at the hands of LaSalle in the city title game. It won’t come easy, especially after losing six starters, including top scorers Wilo Mimbar (graduation, now at Manor College) and Mohamed Conde, who transferred to Father Judge.
At press time, the Eagles won their first four games, and are doing so by starting two freshmen and four sophomores. Two-year starter Mobin Abdul (a native of Afghanistan) is a senior leader on defense, while Marco Naco, of Albania, is also expected to be a contributor on the back line. Ryan Stevens (a Ryan transfer) and Seriah Woteh (a three-year starter) are expected to play big roles, as are two youngsters in Cristian Burteam (Romania) and Stefan Koprivica (Serbia).
“My philosophy is to put the best 11 guys out there that give us the best chance to win,” coach Chris Reid said. “It takes time — we have 24 guys from 18 different countries, so now we’re just going over supporting each other out there on the field and communicating. For me, I want to be jelling by the end of October, and we’ll be on the same page in a few weeks. I’ve played here, and now I’ve coached here, and our goal is always to win a championship. That hasn’t changed.”
Last season: 11-2-1, lost in championship game
The Vikings took a heartbreaking loss in last year’s title game to Washington. Knowing this is their head coach’s last season, they are hoping for the opposite result this time around.
Longtime teacher and soccer/baseball coach Sam Feldman will retire at the end of the school years after 37 years as an educator, and he expects to go out on top. He will have a solid opportunity led by senior captain Andy Jean-Pierre, a striker; junior captain George Chavez, a junior and center midfielder; and senior Chris Black, a captain who Feldman called a “big time” college prospect. “Everything we do on the field revolves around Chris,” he said.
“It’s special because my last team will be the best one I’ve ever had,” Feldman said. “Last year we felt we were the best team, so it’s unfinished business for me and the kids. Our goaltender situation is a bit up in the air, so we’re going to have an up-tempo offense and try to outscore everyone (so far, they have, 16-6, good for a 3-0 record). And while we want to win, people that know me know that winning titles isn’t the end all be all. It’s clichéd and sappy, but I’d much rather have good kids than great athletes I don’t care for. It’s the lifetime friendships that have made this all worth it.”
Last season: 10-3, lost in semifinals
Samuel Fels is making its way up the Public League rankings, even with having to play all their games on the road.
The Panthers, off to a 1-2 start, are still working and waiting on operable home facilities at the school, and have players from all over the globe, from Haiti to Africa; the team’s most experienced leaders are Armstrong Quaryee, Kirby Aldophe and Joseph “Togo Joe” Amoussou. Head coach George Ewerth is in his third year at the head of the program and is stressing education in the classroom and teamwork on the field before anything else.
“We’re family over here, and I can’t say enough about how hard (principal) Shawn McGuigan and (athletic director) Mark Heimerdinger have worked to support all the kids,” Ewerth said. “We don’t have as much as some other schools, but that doesn’t stop them. It’s a great group of kids, a lot of who have it really tough. We’d love to walk out the door and have our field be right there, but all we have is a soccer ball and each other. You play the hand you’re dealt, and the support from the administration has been above and beyond. We’ll see how it goes, but we expect to compete.”
Last season: 7-6, lost in quarterfinals
The boys soccer program at Lincoln has evolved in recent years, as the Railsplitters have transitioned from a me-first team of individuals to a solid core of team players.
Lincoln hopes to compete for a playoff spot in the rugged Public League. At the forefront of the attack will be strikers Hashem Abdulraslol and Yader Espinosa; in the midfield will be Washington Kimber, one of those aforementioned individuals who volunteered to move to the middle to help the team; do-it-all player Kevin Johnson, also a kicker on the football team and a star baseball player, will anchor the defense.
“Most likely, we should be a playoff team,” coach Neal Convey said. “We have the potential to be very good, but do the guys want to work? For a lot of these guys, it’s been night and day since I first met them. Now, they want to step up and do what’s best for the team. We were middle of the pack last year, but we’ve improved and can be with those higher echelon teams if we keep working hard.”
Last season: 1-10
Despite becoming a football and baseball power of late, there is deep history rooted in the Frankford soccer program. Now, the Pioneers are focused on writing a new chapter of success on the pitch.
So far, it’s worked, as they have outscored opponents 20-6 through three games, all wins. The team’s two most experienced players are Mustafa Alghazzawi, of Iraq, and Eric Salguero, of Guatemala. The team has also recruited several Haitian players while scouring the area for talented, skilled and experienced players.
“The biggest struggle has been finding experienced players, but so far it’s gone well,” head coach Rob Shelton said. “The guys complement each other well. They’re good kids, and it’s my job to get them to come play. It’s a struggle from year to year, but it’s just a matter of working the hallways and getting to know the kids. We hope to make a playoff run.”
Franklin Towne Charter
Last season: 6-7
With the girls soccer team bringing the championship home last season, the boys program at Franklin Towne hopes to equal that success real soon.
Leading the charge for Towne will be “Little” Bill Carter, a returning second team All-Public selection. Other names to watch out for are Adam Spangler, Chris McKendry, Chris Hammerstein (the team’s second leading scorer), Brandon McGuire and Marco Udovicki, a Serbian player whose sister, Maja, plays for the girls team.