(written for Somerville Patch)
The Somerville Highlander boys’ soccer team finished their season with a 13-3-4 record and a Greater Boston League championship. The season may have ended prematurely and tearfully at Chelsea two weeks ago, but coach George Scarpelli said his team’s roster of untested seniors and still-raw underclassmen performed above and beyond expectations.
“These kids, while we’re losing them, they really brought our program to a whole new level,” Scarpelli said. “You can see kids on the J.V. and the freshmen team now look at them and say, ‘hey, I can make an impact like they did.’”
The Highlander senior class developed through the program with a hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone attitude, improving each year until they were playing their best soccer in their final year. No one exemplified that like goalkeeper Richard Rodriguez, who started his final year without a single meaningful varsity game under his belt.
Rodriguez responded with multiple shutouts, including a 1-0 postseason victory over Brookline.
Scarpelli said that Rodriguez so prepared himself in the offseason before his senior year that he will graduate as “probably the best goalie Somerville High School has seen in a long time.”
“Richie is being offered a chance to play at the university and the college level,” Scarpelli said. “That, to me, is probably our biggest success story.”
Another graduating senior is striker Charlemers “Junior” Pierre-Louis, whose brute strength and solid ball control made him a monster for opposing center-backs all season long.
“We focused our whole game around that,” Scarpelli said. “He and Lyndon [Kaba] would actually receive the ball with their backs to the opponents’ net, and then distribute. … Once that happened and softened the defense up, he could actually take that opportunity to turn and then use his speed and size just to blow by people.”
Scarpelli said that without Pierre-Louis, the team may move to a two-striker system, taking advantage of the skill sets of players like Maynniquis Das Chagas, Kenny Pinho, and of course Thayrone Miranda.
Miranda offers perhaps the most tantalizing vision for next year’s offense, having already – according to Scarpelli – finished second in the league in scoring while being named to the GBL, Eastern Massachusetts and State All-Star Teams, all as a sophomore.
“I think next year, if he does everything right off the field, I think he could be one of the most decorated soccer players Somerville High has ever had,” Scarpelli said, adding: “He’s got that type of skill that you don’t see: It’s just natural.”
Miranda will be helped by sophomores Francisco Fernandes Neto and Marcelo Brociner: midfielders whose combination of speed and poise should allow the Highlanders to dominate the center of the field and keep the ball near the other goal.
On defense, center-back Andre Filipe Rolim’s phenomenal speed will let other defenders creep up the field, feeding the ball more quickly back to attackers.
“If you see either Elliot [Rippe] or Matheus [Augusto Reis] attacking from the outside, it’s because we have enough faith in Andre in the back and his speed,” Scarpelli said. “You have to beat him twice or three times.”
As a swansong to the season, the MIAA honored the Highlanders with the Team Sportsmanship Award last Friday at the state finals. Scarpelli said the honor likely came in part because the Highlanders received just two yellow cards and zero red cards old season.
“You seldom see a team hold their composure, especially when teams are shooting at you every single game,” Scarpelli said. “I think our boys, one of the reasons why we’re so successful is the discipline they showed throughout the year.”
Not only did the Highlanders show maturity and self-control on the field, but Scarpelli also said his players constantly sought opportunities to help out in the community.
“Being that I work with the recreation department, we have a lot of opportunities here that we reach out and do a lot of volunteer opportunities with the kids,” Scarpelli said. “It’s funny, whenever I go to school and I ask the kids to come out and help, it’s always the soccer players that seem to be the first ones to jump out and say, ‘Coach, we’ll be there, we want to help.’”