With seven returning starters and a new coaching staff, the Orange boys’ soccer team is optimistic about its chances in the new-look Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.
First-year head coach Chris Cvecko knows his team has the potential to compete for the top spot in the league and also to make a deep postseason run.
“As a coaching staff, we believe that we have great potential to be at the top of the standings within our division. With that being said, we strive to perform well in league play and intend to come out of the season with a winning record that will allow us to participate in the playoffs,” Cvecko said. “Once playoff time rolls around, we know anything can happen and hope to compete amongst some of the top teams in the state. A lengthy playoff run is certainly not out of reach.”
The Lions finished 9-5-3 overall last fall but didn’t make it out of the sectional tournament.
To avoid a letdown this season, both in the regular season and beyond, the Lions have to remain laser-focused on their goals and put in the work to prepare for the challenges they’ll face.
“Our team has to remain focused, engage in camaraderie on and off the field, and trust in one another’s abilities,” Cvecko said. “We have emphasized fitness throughout the offseason and look to expand upon that during our preseason sessions. Fitness is critical and can keep you in games against even the most skilled sides. We also plan to utilize the depth we have this year as players will certainly contribute off of the bench. We anticipate that all players will buy into the plan we have as a coaching staff and work as a cohesive unit to execute our strategic outlook on the field.”
Orange is projected to start just two seniors—forward Omer Sarig and goalkeeper Adam Rosenthal. Sarig scored four goals last season while Rosenthal recorded 99 saves.
“(Sarig is) one of the most hardworking machines on the field,” Cvecko said. “Omer will certainly make a drastic impact as a returning forward. He is no stranger to putting balls in the back of the net. (Rosenthal) needs no introduction. Viewed as one of the best keepers in the state, we wish good luck to all who attempt to sneak one past this guy. He can do it all, keep the ball out of the net, ping a long ball, or play with his feet.”
Orange’s junior starters include forward Victor Ononogbo, midfielder Cade Horvat, and defender Pascal Morris-Barrie.
Ononogbo scored six goals and added an assist last season while Horvat led the Lions with nine goals and he added an assist.
“We plan to take advantage of Victor’s incredible pace and elusive agility on the ball this year. We have high hopes for this speed demon,” Cvecko said. “(With Horvat), Orange High’s leading goal scorer will be back in action this season, as he looks to pick up where he left off. His confidence and finesse in front of goal is something we hope to exploit this upcoming season. Opposing keepers best be on their toes as Cade looks to fire in shots from all angles.
Morris-Barrie finished the season with one goal but has proven to be a stopper on the backend.
“Pascal has put in the work this offseason and comes into the 2019 season poised to stop everything in his track,” Cvecko said. “His brick wall defending and upbeat attitude will certainly play out in Orange’s favor.”
Rounding out the projected starting 11 are sophomore midfielders Jake Tartaglia and Evan Friedman.
Tartaglia scored five goals and added a pair of assists as a freshman starter and Friedman pitched in with one goal.
“One of our youngest returning starters this season seems primed and ready to dance all over the ball this year,” Cvecko said of Tartaglia. “Defenders stand minimal chance against Jake’s elusive foot skills and quick change of pace. Evan, a well-oiled machine, looks to make a big impact in the midfield. With his deceptive speed, he plans to get down the line in a hurry consistently slinging in balls from the wing.”
Cvecko remains focused on finding the right pieces to the puzzle but he also knows the Orange coaching staff has to be on the top of its game.
A former assistant at Orange, Cvecko is now the head coach and he brought in Connor Pletz and Stevan Bjelicic to complete his staff.
“A crucial piece relies on the need for the team to believe in the coaching staff,” Cvecko said. “With one returning assistant, now named head coach, and the addition of two new faces, it is critical that the player-coach relationship is formulated early on. Trust and belief in the system the coaching staff is trying to implement will be critical for early and long-standing success this year on the field.”