LYNN — The English boys soccer team has a fresh start in 2018 after a disappointing 2017 campaign, but coach Kerry King knows that it won’t be the easiest journey to get back to prominence.
“We certainly have a lot of work to do, we had a tough year last year,” said King, who is entering his 19th season as head coach. “We lost some really good players from last year’s team, and a lot of new guys are going to have to step up this year.”
The Bulldogs had a tough year last year. They had flashes of great play at times, but their struggle to score goals, which has been a problem for the last couple years, ultimately meant losses on the schedule despite having one of the better goalkeepers in the Northeastern Conference in Billy Allen. Now this year, English will be without Allen, who graduated in June.
“Billy was a great player for us, and he was a three-year starter,” said King. “He’s going to be a tough player to replace for sure.”
English also lost its two other team captains from last year in Muhammad Diallo and Nuhi Xhemajli, putting a vacancy in the midfield as well as in the back end.
But despite the losses, there is reason for optimism for the Bulldogs. Last year’s leading scorer, Julio Cora, returns this year as a senior captain. Zach Arsenault and Patrick Nkada will be the other two senior captains, while Andric Barrios will round out the group of veteran leaders for English.
There is also a group of younger talent that will get some playing time this year, including Chris Lazo, Ryan Lima and Juan Perez.
“We have a pretty good mix of guys this year,” King said. “We have guys who have been on the team for us and we also have guys who have played more club soccer and aren’t as experienced in the high school game. There are some adjustments that need to be made by everybody, but we certainly have the talent necessary to compete.”
Then, of course, there is the question at goalkeeper. The job currently belongs to senior Cherubin Musangu, who has experience on the junior varsity team and has been impressive so far in the preseason.
“Cherubin is a good player who has experience in net for us at the JV level,” King said. “He’s got good athleticism and good size, and he’s had a great preseason for us so far. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in net for us this year.”
Practices have gone well so far this preseason, and the Bulldogs have played a host of scrimmages against the likes of KIPP, Newburyport, Pentucket and Watertown. All of their hard work leads up to Tuesday night, when English opens its season against crosstown rival Classical in the opening round of the Lynn Invitational Soccer Tournament.
“We’ll be young at certain positions this year, so one of our main goals will definitely be to stay disciplined out there,” said King. “I think with our level of talent, we should be able to do a good job of possessing the ball and getting opportunities, but our ability to win will depend on us playing sound soccer for the whole game, every game.”