Riverhead boys soccer coach Evan Philcox has a simple goal this season in Suffolk County League I. It isn’t necessary qualifying for the Class AA playoffs, but worrying about what is in front of his squad.
“I just want to be focused on one possession, one half, one game, one day at time,” he said. “Hopefully, we can look up in the end and find ourselves in a position that we’ve never been in before.”
A reasonable goal for a team that finished 2-13-1 overall and in the league last year.
Philcox has three seniors in their third year of varsity duty that he will rely on — central midfielder Ian Lull and left back Danny Arias, who are co-captains, and center back Erick Valladares.
Lull was the leading goal scorer the past two years.
“He has flexibility to be creative and go where he’s needed,” Philcox said. “He’s dangerous from anywhere in the attacking half of the field. He scored on a direct kick against Northport 10 yards in front of our bench. He put it upper 90. He’s outrageous. When he has a ball against another defender, he is almost impossible to cover and he also [has] a great ability to distribute the ball.”
Arias can play across the back line.
“He’s quick, he’s explosive. He runs track, also,” Philcox said. “We’re looking for him to be more of a vocal leader this year. His play usually speaks for itself. We know exactly what we’re getting out of him every day. He’s maybe our most consistent player.”
Valladares will anchor the defense. “He has an imposing presence in the back,” Philcox said. “He just gives us a monster physical presence.”
Others Philcox is counting on include forward Davit Kebadze, midfielders Alex Garcia, Rudy Samayoa, Cesar Garcia, David Razana and Pablo Chacon. Junior Josue Razana is slated to tend goal.
Philcox has been impressed with the team’s discipline and focus.
“I want to be much more workmanlike,” he said. “So far this is the most disciplined and focused [team] that we’ve had. We’ve had the fewest off-field distractions. Definitely the deepest team that we’ve had in three years in terms of talent. Everybody seems focused on the job and we just need to keep that focus on every single thing that we do, every drill, every touch, every time we lose the ball. One foot in front of the other.”
Shoreham Wading-River (9-7) will compete in League VI. Coach Russ Mitchinson could not be reached for comment about his team’s prospects this season.
Photo caption: Riverhead left back Danny Arias is in his third varsity season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)