Caden Kaasa is The Herald’s All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year. The Monroe senior forward compiled a record-setting season and helped the Bearcats cap a massive turnaround with a third-place state finish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Caden Kaasa is The Herald’s All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year. The Monroe senior forward compiled a record-setting season and helped the Bearcats cap a massive turnaround with a third-place state finish. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The Herald’s Boys Soccer Player of the Year: Caden Kaasa

The Monroe senior scored a school-record 29 goals and led the Bearcats to a third-place finish at state.

Caden Kaasa set the tone in the first game of the season.

The Monroe High School senior showed off his superior scoring ability by netting all three goals as the Bearcats’ boys soccer team thumped Redmond 3-0.

It was just the start of an avalanche of goals that led to a record-setting season for the talented striker.

Kaasa delivered four hat tricks, recorded two or more goals nine times and scored or assisted on a goal in 18 of Monroe’s 23 games. He finished the season with a school-record 29 goals and 10 assists to boot, giving him a foot in 51.3% of the team’s 76 goals.

His efforts helped the Bearcats cap a dramatic turnaround with a third-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament.

For his record-setting senior season, Kaasa is The Herald’s 2022 Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

“The way that he’s multifaceted as a person definitely vibes to his athletic ability as well,” Monroe coach Korey Hope said. “Just within his athletic ability he obviously has the speed, but I think he’s one of the smartest players that I’ve ever seen and certainly that I’ve ever coached at this age.”

Kaasa’s athleticism and knowledge of the game were on full display throughout the season. The 5-foot-11 forward showed he can score in a number of different ways, whether it was creating shots for himself, finding the right space in the defense to get open or anticipating passes before they happen.

And one of the aspects that made Kaasa such a lethal scorer was the seamless connection he had with longtime friend and fellow Bearcat forward Josh Gunter.

Gunter, who had a school-record 21 assists this season and was a doubles partner with Kaasa on the Monroe boys tennis team in the fall, could regularly be seen dishing out a through ball or cross for Kaasa, and often times the results of those connections were cause for celebrations for Monroe.

“Caden and Josh have kind of an unspoken language where they always seem to be on the same page on the field,” Hope said. “You add that to their athletic ability, that makes them really difficult to defend. Just two guys at the top of the pitch for us that can completely flip a game on its head.”

Kaasa netted a school-record 29 goals and added 10 assists, giving him a foot in more than half his team’s scoring. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Kaasa netted a school-record 29 goals and added 10 assists, giving him a foot in more than half his team’s scoring. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Throughout the season Kaasa showed a propensity for scoring goals in big moments.

After going through a minor scoring slump late in the regular season, Kaasa scored three goals to help Monroe pull out a 5-4 win over Everett. And less than two weeks later he delivered his best performance in what at the time was the biggest game in recent history for the program.

The Bearcats faced Arlington in the quarterfinals of the 3A District 1 tournament. It was the first time Monroe hosted a district playoff game in over a decade. And Kaasa made sure that monumental occasion ended with a victory by scoring a whopping five goals in a 7-3 win.

“That just tells you what he’s about,” Hope said. “The biggest game of his high school career, all of our high school journeys over the past four years in trying to get this program back on to its feet. … Up to that point, that’s what we had worked for. He showed what he can really do and it was really cool to watch.”

Among Kaasa’s five goals was one that came on an extraordinary solo effort. He corralled a through ball that rolled deep into the corner and was met by two Arlington defenders looking to trap. Kaasa made a move and put the ball between a defender’s legs, ran around both players to regain possession, immediately juked out a pursuing defender and worked his way around another defender before firing a right-footed laser past the diving goalie for a 6-3 lead.

“That was just a final exclamation point,” Kaasa said. “I remember running right in front of the crowd and the bench and everyone got up off the bench and was hugging me and stuff. That felt so good.”

The senior tied Monroe’s record for goals scored in a season in a state quarterfinal game against Seattle Prep. Unsurprisingly, that goal came on a Gunter-to-Kaasa connection.

“We had just good chemistry up front,” Kaasa said. “… Josh definitely helped a lot setting me up for those.”

While Kassa did plenty to impress with skills on the pitch, what stood out most to his coach was his team-first mentality and character on and off the field.

So it came as no surprise to Hope when Kaasa passed up on the opportunity for a decent shot in their state semifinal game — one that could have put the striker all alone in the school record book — to dish off to another teammate for an even better look that put Monroe up 2-0 early in what ended up being a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.

“I have no doubt that he didn’t even think for a second about himself,” Hope said. “It’s always team first — what’s best for the team in this moment right here? It’s certainly the first box he checks when he makes decisions on the field.”

Kaasa said he was just trying to win, but his teammates still gave him a little flack for passing up on the shot.

“Everyone was like ‘What are you doing? You need to just take it and be more selfish,’” Kaasa said. “… I didn’t really think of the record in that moment.”

In the third-place game the following day, Kaasa broke the tie when he put Monroe up 3-0 over Bainbridge Island. He added another goal later to bring his total to 29.

And while the individual achievement of setting a school record is certainly an accomplishment Kaasa will never forget, the way the season played out around his record-setting performance made it even more meaningful.

Monroe won just three games in 2019 when Kaasa and many of his close friends on the team were freshmen. It was another losing season for a program that had been struggling for years. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season, and the 2021 campaign was played with no postseason, which was a tough blow for a squad that gave a glimpse of what it was now capable of accomplishing during an 8-1-1 spring.

The Bearcats continued to build on that success this season, finishing with an 18-4-1 record and reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2002. Their third-place trophy at state is the second-best finish in program history.

“It made it just even better because of how good we did and that I was able to get that (record) and add to an almost perfect season,” Kaasa said.

Kaasa is set to attend Boise State University in the fall and currently doesn’t have plans of playing soccer at the next level. But he’s still open to the opportunity if it presents itself.

For now, he’s still soaking up a storybook ending to his stellar high school soccer career.

“I’ve been reflecting on it a lot and just thinking how proud I am and how it just felt great to be on that journey and everything we went through, going from pretty much last to almost first,” Kaasa said. “It was just awesome to be a part of that team and go that far for our last season.”

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