LYNN — The Classical boys soccer team couldn’t have idealized a better start three games into the 2018 season. The Rams blanked English in the Lynn City Tournament opener last week, defeated Tech in the tournament’s championship game last weekend and drew a scoreless tie with Ipswich Monday. If the numbers tell a story, it’s that Classical’s defense has certainly done its part in the early going. Anchoring that defensive unit is senior goalie Dan Cortes.
“Dan brings a sense of security to the team,” first-year Rams coach Eric Moreno said. “We know we have solid rock back in net. He kind of makes the game easy because we know we have someone in net protecting the goal with experience. He’s very intelligent.”
Cortes, in his third season on the Classical varsity squad, hadn’t won a Lynn City Tournament until last Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Tech.
“It felt amazing,” Cortes said. “It’s something that we’ve never experienced before and the players really had a good time. It was one of our goals. At first we were just looking to see what teams were difficult for us. We accomplished this goal and so far things have gone alright.”
Now the Rams shift gears to the remainder of their regular season. Cortes, along with the rest of Classical’s senior class, has yet to experience postseason soccer. Cortes said qualifying for the state tournament’s one of his team’s goals and the Rams feel confident they can reach it.
“We feel very good,” Cortes said. “We feel very confident. We feel we can go very far this season and have a winning record. We feel we can take on any team that’s coming our way.”
Making Classical’s strong start even more impressive is the fact that the team has looked solid with a new coach on the sideline. Moreno was hired to coach the Rams in the spring and has implemented an attack-heavy offense that has paid dividends for Classical. Cortes said things have gone well with Moreno at the helm thus far.
“Everyone likes (Moreno’s) style of play,” Cortes said. “He’s doing an excellent job. He’s teaching us how to attack and everyone’s doing their job and paying attention. Things are going well. We already got used to (Moreno’s system) and now we’ll be good for the whole season.”
Moreno pointed to Cortes’ stellar play as a key ingredient to Classical’s early success. Although Moreno has implemented tweaks and changes to the team’s attack, Moreno said having a reliable goalie’s important for any team looking to win.
“It’s a big key to having a successful team, having a reliable goalkeeper,” Moreno said. “You can’t win championships without someone who’s intelligent. It’s an underrated position but in my opinion it’s the most important position on the field. He’s already had three shutouts for us so that’s been big. If you don’t concede, you don’t lose games. That stresses the importance of those shutouts he has.
“Dan’s a lot better with extra training,” Moreno said. “He’s a complete goalkeeper now and he’s just going to get better as he continues to train.”
Moreno’s also impressed with how Cortes carries himself off the field.
“What stands out to me the most is how humble Dan is,” Moreno said. “He’s a very humble player and a good player. He’s well-grounded. He’s one of the best players on the team but he comes in every day, ready to work. He doesn’t ask for any credit.”
Aside from keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard, the Rams will also rely on Cortes for his leadership abilities. Cortes was named a team captain prior to the beginning of the season. Cortes said he feels well-suited for the role.
“I feel privileged,” Cortes said. “I feel that I was made to be a captain. I won’t let my teammates down. I’m very happy to be a captain.”
And as the final season of his high school soccer career takes its course, Cortes feels proud to be part of a team eager to make noise and crawl its way into the postseason.
“It would mean everything not only to me but to the whole team,” Cortes said. “That’s all we’ve ever wanted for this soccer program over the last few years. Making the state tournament would be an ultimate goal, an ultimate dream.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this team. I’m very proud of the team we have. I love every one of my teammates. We’ll be ready this season and we’ll give it everything we’ve got.”