One October afternoon while practicing with Our Lady of Good Counsel High School’s boys’ soccer team, senior Alessandro Burlew took a moment to look around.
He surveyed his teammates while simultaneously reflecting on the Falcons’ 2013 campaign, as well as his own.
In doing so, he came to a rather startling realization.
“We have some sophomores who have been playing varsity for two years and they have more varsity experience than me,” he said.
Indeed, because of his fights against chronic injuries, this is the first time Burlew’s been healthy and contributing to his club since he transferred to Good Counsel from Linganore following his freshman year.
Contributing, however, would be putting it lightly. The 5-foot-9, 150-pound forward has scored a team-leading 15 goals this season and assisted three more helping the Falcons to an 8-3-3 record. His goals total is tops among all Montgomery County players, public and private. Burlew also doubles as the place kicker on Good Counsel’s football team, which is 6-4 this year.
“It’s like I’m making up for lost time,” Burlew said. “I’ve got to be happy with what I’ve done, but the job’s not over yet. I’d be happy with making it to the WCAC championship.”
The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference soccer playoffs began on Tuesday. And while the Falcons are likely underdogs behind DeMatha, Gonzaga and Paul VI — the three teams that beat them this season — Burlew and second-year coach Dylan Dempsey are confident this team has a run in it.
“We’re way more competitive than we were last year,” Dempsey said. “Even though we’re not blowing teams out, I’m pleased with the way things are coming along.”
Burlew, who called his game-winner against Archbishop Spalding in the first match of the season his most memorable goal to date, does the bulk of his scoring on off-ball runs. He and sophomore Dominic-Maximilian Duncan work combos well with one another, Dempsey said.
“He definitely gets the hard goals,” Dempsey said. “He definitely earns every single one of them. He gets the ball in wide areas, makes defenders miss and he’s very smooth on the ball, very elusive. It’s fortunate that he’s been healthy.”
For a long time, he wasn’t.
In the second game of his sophomore season, Burlew broke his ankle against Winston Churchill. That rendered him unable to play for the rest of the year. After an arduous recovery process, the speedy striker felt ready to make amends for missing all of 2011 by starting strong for his junior season. Two weeks before the first game, however, Burlew found out he had a stress fracture in his hip. He had been playing through it for roughly four months and it went undiscovered until he had an MRI before the season.
For the second consecutive year, an injury forced Burlew to the sidelines.
“I just spent a lot of time out, watching my team play. I guess it made me hungry,” said Burlew, who started playing soccer and football when he was 5 because he wanted to be like his brother. “I wanted to take part in it and wanted to make a difference to my school and my community.”
Balancing his roles between soccer and football can be challenging. As soon as soccer practice ends, he heads over to the football field and then usually returns home at around 7:30 p.m. But what’s most noticeable for Burlew is juxtaposing the stature of the football team — consistently elite and nationally-recognized — with that of the soccer team, a program that hopes to get there sooner than later.
“It’s a big difference, but both teams have a lot of confidence,” Burlew said. “The football team’s confidence comes from maintaining the same level. The soccer team is out to make a name for itself and start a beautiful legacy.”
In the process of rejuvenating himself, Burlew has piqued the interest of a few colleges, but hasn’t received any official offers yet. Dempsey is hopeful Burlew will carry his tremendous form into his club season and continue to earn recognition from scouts.
“There’s going to be a school that kind of lucks out on getting him,” Dempsey said. “It’s hard to find that player who has a nose for the ball and can consistently put the ball in the net. He’s going to be one of those NFL Draft picks where you get a gem in the fifth or sixth round.”