The Gaithersburg High School boys soccer team could be one of the best in Montgomery County this season. It wasn’t long ago — only two years — that the Trojans were, as senior goalkeeper Christian Reyes described it, “just a kickball team.”
“We always had talent but I guess we didn’t really know how to use it,” said Reyes, a three-year starter. “... Now we built up our chemistry and work as a team.”
Gaithersburg’s record has steadily improved from 2-8-2 in 2011, to 5-8 in 2012, to 8-4-1 last fall. Reyes and his teammates said that Gaithersburg has become more of a “possession team” under second-year coach Matt Bowling, a strategic shift which has contributed to the turnaround.
One beneficiary has been Max Boimov, a first team All-Gazette midfielder who tallied four goals last season.
“We have a lot of kids that have been playing together for a long time,” said Boimov, one of 12 returning seniors. “... Now with a team that’s more comfortable with each other, we can actually work together and have better possessions.”
Senior striker Gustavo Garcia had similar success in Gaithersburg’s possession-focused system, scoring seven goals last season.
“If we’re playing on their half and we can control it, it leads to me having more chances to score.”
Though the Trojans graduated 11 seniors, Bowling said he is optimistic about the team’s chances of taking another step forward.
“I really feel like this school is a sleeping giant. It’s waiting to wake up,” Bowling said. “… I hope that last year, maybe we sent a signal that we can play with the big guys.”
Added Reyes: “We’re always going to have to work hard and give our best effort. Just give it all our hearts and play until the end.”
Kert Mease is entering his 17th season as coach of Germantown’s Northwest, and never before, he said, has he seen a Montgomery County soccer season like the one last year.
James H. Blake won the 4A North Region, reaching the state finals for the first time in the Silver Spring school’s history, while Derwood’s Col. Zadok Magruder — a year removed from a 3-12 season — came out of the 4A West by winning all of its regional playoff games by one goal and knocking off the defending state champions, Thomas S. Wootton (Rockville).
“It’s parity, I guess. We’re like the NFL,” Mease said.
Coaches across the county said they expect another wide open season. Magruder and Blake were among the contenders mentioned, but the only consensus was that the gap between the top and bottom teams is shrinking, and that there was no definitive favorite.
David Greene, entering his 36th season as coach of Bethesda’s Walt Whitman, said that about nine teams in the county — including his own — have state championship potential.
“We almost consider our region [4A West] a state championship in itself,” said Greene, whose Vikings lost to Walter Johnson (Bethesda) in the region semifinals. “... If you could get through the region you could have a fairly good opportunity to win the whole thing.”
In Class 3A, Watkins Mill in Gaithersburg (6-4-2 last season) will feature a mix of underclassmen and seniors, including fourth-year player Alec Van Bronkhorst, who was a freshman in 2011 when the Wolverines won the state championship.
“I think we’re a lot more experienced than we were last year and the expectation is that we’re going to take it to the next level,” Wolverines coach Jeff Heckert said.