Bolstered by a seasoned rapport from years of playing together, the Lynnwood boys soccer team’s prolific goal-scoring duo of Ryley Johnson and Dane Evanger is once again wreaking havoc on opposing defenses.
The senior forwards have combined for 36 goals this season, with Johnson netting 21 and Evanger tallying 15. Combined, the two of them have outscored every other Wesco 3A team except Snohomish.
Their standout senior campaigns come after similarly impressive seasons last year, when Evanger scored 20 goals on his way to Class 3A second-team all-state honors and Johnson netted 18 goals en route to an all-state honorable mention.
“They play really well together,” Lynnwood coach Pablo Mummey said. “They know each other so well that it just takes a look from each other to know what they’re going to do. They don’t even have to talk about it sometimes.”
Johnson and Evanger are close friends off the pitch and have been playing together since sixth grade. They were on the same club team for three seasons and have spent the last four springs together on the Royals, who finished the regular season Monday tied for second place in Wesco 3A.
The two Lynnwood stars plan to continue their soccer careers together next year at Highline Community College in Des Moines.
“I love playing with him,” Evanger said, “because we just have this chemistry where if I do something, he knows where that run is going to be — he knows where that ball is going to be. He makes those runs that I like. I make those runs that he likes. We just work off of each other so well.”
“He’ll know what I’m doing before I’ll even do it,” Johnson said. “It’s easy to work through defenses and score a bunch of goals when you have somebody who’s experienced, plays at a high level and knows what you’re going to do. It’s fun to play with him.”
Johnson has scored in all but two of the matches he’s played in this season, including a four-goal flurry in a victory over Everett and hat tricks in wins over Edmonds-Woodway and Stanwood. He excels in set-piece situations, having scored several goals this season off free kicks and corner kicks. But his greatest strength might be his blistering speed.
“He has what I call another gear,” Mummey said. “Just when you thought he’s going full speed, he pulls out this turbo speed that just comes out of nowhere. There’s not a defender out there that can really keep up with him when he gets going.
“But it’s not just the speed that he has. It’s (also) the footwork. The technical part of (his game) is really amazing. He’s really a player that is a lot of fun to watch.”
Evanger, who netted a hat trick in a win over Arlington, possesses a slightly different skill set.
“He’s more of a true forward, and I mean that in the sense that he can play with his back to the goal that he’s attacking,” Mummey said. “Constant movement, always looking for the defense’s weaknesses. That’s one of his biggest strengths — always looking at how to get behind (defenders) or how to take people one-on-one. Finding a way to (get) his shot is what he’s really good at.”
Johnson and Evanger are in their third season as team captains and have helped lead the program into the upper echelon of Wesco 3A.
After only seven wins combined in 2014 and 2015, the Royals won 11 matches last season and have won nine this year. Lynnwood (9-6-0 overall, 8-4-0 Wesco 3A) has tied for second place in the conference each of the last two seasons and will be making its second consecutive district-tournament appearance.
With a top-four finish at district, the Royals would earn their second state-tournament berth in program history and their first since 1986.
“You can feel the difference in the locker room,” Johnson said. “Freshman year was like, ‘OK, we’re about to play a game and hopefully we come out with the win.’
“But now in the last couple years it’s been like, ‘OK, we’re coming in here and we’re going to win.’ That’s the expectation now, every single game.”