Boys soccer preview: Five players to watch

Anthony Johnson

Marysville Pilchuck | Sr. | Forward

The Tomahawks lost a few key players from last year’s team as well as defections to Marysville Getchel. One player that first-year varsity coach Paul Bartley hung onto was Johnson. Bartley previously coached the MP JV and has worked with the 13 Tommies that are seniors this season of which Johnson is likely the best of the bunch. “You are looking at a kid that can beat anybody on our team by about three yards in the 40 (yard dash),” Bartley said. Johnson has a deadly mix of great touch around the net as well as power from long range. His presence will open things up for his teammates. “I’ve seen him draw up to three players and then distribute the ball so other players have opportunities to score,” Bartley said. Johnson hasn’t decided where he will play next but has drawn recruiting interest from multiple Division I programs as far as Miami (Fla.) and multiple Pac-12 schools.

Jesus Mendoza

Glacier Peak | Jr. | Goalkeeper

After a surprise win of the 2010 3A state crown, expectations were high for the 2011 team that returned nearly every key player, but the nationally ranked Grizzlies lost a shootout to Bainbridge in the 2011 state semifinals. Much of the roster of the 2010 team is now graduated, including superstar keeper Andrew Weakly who redshirted this fall at Villanova. Mendoza is a third-year varsity player, who has mostly hung back in the considerable shadow of Weakley with a few notable exceptions. With Weakley away for a club commitment in the 2010 semifinals Mendoza, who GP coach Shannon Murray called a, “little freshman” stepped in and made a penalty-kick save that helped send the Grizzlies to the final. “He’s got big shoes to fill,” Murray said. “But he’s been training with Andrew for two years here. He’s a very good goalkeeper.” Murray and staff even joked last year that though Mendoza didn’t see much field time he might be the league’s second-best keeper. “He’s bided his time and now he’s ready,” Murray said.

Riley Rayner

Archbishop Murphy | Sr. | Forward

Mike Bartley has been the longtime coach of the Jackson girls, but signed on to coach the Wildcat boys for the first time this season. Not only will Bartley coach his son Josh—a junior midfielder for Murphy— but he inherits a team that made it to the 2A state quarterfinals. Bartley expects to rely heavily on three senior captains to defend the team’s Cascade conference crown (shared with King’s in 2011). Aidan Huggins, Quin Nelson and Alex Kramer (also a standout on Murphy’s state finalist football team at RB/DB) are key leaders but Bartley expects to lean the most on Rayner. “He’s an outstanding talent,” Bartley said. Rayner is a great finisher and plays with quickness “It’s going to be exciting to watch him play,” the coach said. “He always shows up at the right place at the right time.” Bartley expects to use him more as a playmaker this year allowing Rayner to display his creativity in the middle of the field as well as near the goal.

Miki Brown

Stanwood | Sr. | Midfield

The 2011 season wasn’t pretty for Stanwood boys soccer team, which finished last in the Wesco North last year. But 2012 figures to be different thanks to Brown and new coach Kyle Veach. Brown, who was a first-team all Wesco North selection as a junior, expects to play soccer at the Division II level after he graduates according to Veach, but before his senior season is over he is aiming to turn the Spartans program around. “He’s a natural leader on our team,” Veach said. “All the other guys on the team look to him first.” Also on the all-league midfield for the Spartans in 2011 was Alex Esary, who gives Stanwood a nice one-two punch on offense. “We have a lot of great building blocks that should lead to a great season for us,” Veach said. Shoring up the defense will be three returning senior defenders and freshman goalkeeper Riley Martin, who although young has been battle tested at the club soccer level. Veach, who also coaches the Stanwood girls team, hopes that his new coaching system blending with returning leaders like Brown and younger contributors will make the Spartans quickly forget the 2011 campaign.

Javier Gomez

Marysville Getchell | Sr. | Forward

Spain has long been a hotbed of soccer talent known throughout the world and the country’s first-ever World Cup in 2010 did nothing to dispel that notion. Little did Marysville Getchell coach Geoff Kittle know, when he moved across town from coaching Marysville Pilchuck that he would be getting his own Spanish import. Gomez is one of four foreign-exchange players on the MG roster and though Jesus Valenzuela is probably the Chargers best player, Gomez may be the most intriguing and probably the best of the four exchange students. “I would say Javier is most skilled in terms of dribbling and finishing,” Kittle said. Gomez, who said he’s loved his five months in the states, says that the transition in terms of style of play has been a challenge at times. The Charger senior has played for the Sounders academy and is used to more dribbling and slowing down the pace of the game compared to what he calls a “fast game” of passing the ball down the field more typical in America. Whatever style he plays, Chargers opponents will likely have difficulty adjusting to Gomez’ skills.

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