Chris McGrath kept repeating hopeful statements when discussing the upcoming boys’ soccer season.
Old Bridge High School’s 13th-year coach really likes how these Knights are looking.
Old Bridge has five core seniors who “would have played on any team I fielded in the last 10 years,” McGrath said.
“They are really going to contribute a lot and give us an opportunity to be competitive,” he added.
“Things are looking hopeful,” he added.
“It’s a promising year,” McGrath continued.
Then he capped it off with a bold but reasonable prediction.
“Our expectations are to get to a (Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament) semifinal game and win it,” McGrath said. “We’ve been there a couple times (in my tenure) and lost both.”
“Then if we get to the final, we’ll worry about the final,” the coach explained.
Old Bridge will open its regular season with a Sept. 3 home game against Monroe Township High School. Opening tap is scheduled for 4 p.m.
All five of those seniors, goalkeeper Eric Siciliano, defender Thomas Carrington, midfielder Greg Scheuerman, forward Giuseppe Somma and forward Alex Park, will be in the starting lineup. They are all fundamentally sound and experienced players.
Old Bridge finished 5-8-4 a year ago, but Siciliano kept the Knights in a lot of games. The team was riddled with injuries in front of the keeper, and he often “stood on his head,” as McGrath described it, against the relentless pressure of opponents.
But that pressure should ease a little bit in 2019. Carrington, a high level club player for the Players Development Academy, is a complete defender who can anchor a unit.
“He reads the game well, he passes well, he slide tackles well,” McGrath said. “He does a lot of things well.”
Scheuerman should also help ease the pressure on Siciliano. The senior midfielder is a “dynamo,” McGrath said, who can also “do it all.”
“He’s a pint sized guy who wins more air balls than a lot of 6-footers,” the coach added. “He’s all heart and desire.”
Old Bridge scored only 24 goals in 17 games last fall, a combination of limited possessions and missed scoring opportunities. So if Carrington and Scheuerman can lead a better possession game this fall, the Knights will also need Somma and Park to finish scoring chances.
Park led the Knights with five goals in 2018. Somma led the team in points with six, three goals and three assists. Both are capable scorers. Old Bridge just needs them to be more prolific in 2019.
“As long as we’re blessed with health, I anticipate that we’ll move the ball and work well together,” McGrath said. “We’ve got a lot of strong players on the field.”
But the coach does not just want to reach the GMC Tournament championship game. He also wants his Knights to qualify for the NJSIAA playoffs. Old Bridge missed the state sectional tournament in 2018.
“We have to come out and win some early games so we can put some power points on the board,” McGrath said. “That will position us for the playoffs.”