2023 season preview: Troup boys soccer is looking to claim first region title in program history
Published 8:51 am Saturday, February 4, 2023
The Troup boys soccer team is edging closer to kicking off their 2023 season. The Tigers are coming off one of their most successful campaigns in program history.
Troup went 11-4 and made the playoffs after a 1-9 season the year prior. It was a quick turnaround for the Tigers, who exited the playoffs in the first round with a 2-0 loss to Griffin. Now, the Tigers are looking to take another step forward.
“Our goal is to win a region championship,” Troup coach Eddie Lawson said. “It’s never been done at Troup before, but I think this is the team to do it.”
This year’s Troop team has a ton of carryover from a season ago.
“Our only two new starters will be our goalkeeper and one of our outside forwards,” Lawson said. “Two positions on the field have new players, but the other nine are returning so we can do some things we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
This Tiger team has a unique family connection that few teams in high school soccer across the country will have.
“What’s unique about this team is I have four sets of brothers,” Lawson said with a chuckle. “I have the Partain brothers, the Merida brothers, the Cotton brothers, and the Villatoro’s. It gives some of the players a natural connection on the field.”
Senior Karwan Gardi will earn the starting nod in the back. He will be a first year starter for the Tigers but has a wealth of playing experience as the team’s no. 2 the last couple of years.
“He’s got lots of experience playing goalkeeper for us, and we should be strong there,” Lawson said. “I think he will do an exemplary job for us.”
The Tigers are thin at goalkeeper behind Gardi who will be relied on to start every game this season if he remains healthy.
Thomas Cotton is the backup goalie but will see more time in the field as one of the reserve defenders.
The backline will be a battle tested and strong unit for the Tigers this. Chris Moore will be at the heart of the defense and will once again be starting at centre-back.
“He’s an absolute beast on the field,” Lawson said. “He’s physical and smart and has huge legs.”
Moore will not be the only senior leader the team has along the backline. Nolan Barton will be a starter at right full-back and brings a lot to the team in defense and attack.
“He is a really smart, soccer savvy guy,” Lawson said. “He has loads of energy and gets up and down that right side.”
The defense will be the foundation of the Tigers this season. Joining these two players at the back will be fellow senior Bryan Villataro and junior Diego Merida.
“Our backline is probably the strongest position for us on the field,” Lawson said.
Freshman Christopher Villatoro will provide some cover at the full-back positions.
The Tigers will have three players in the middle of the park. Brothers Luis and Augusto Merida will lock down two of the spots in midfield. Luis has been the Tigers leading goal scorer the last couple of years. Both guys got some valuable experience a season ago and will be looking to make an even bigger impact as a junior and sophomore respectively. Banneker Johnson was a starter last season and will resume that role in the middle of the park this year.
The Tigers will also rotate some players in. Yuri Kim is a sophomore with a lot of space and technical ability that will see time at midfield and at forward.
“He’s a talented athlete,” Lawson said. “He knows where to play the ball before he even gets it. It’s like he doesn’t even have to think about it, he just plays the game.”
Kim was the first player off the bench last season and could see his game time expanded this year.
Freshman Austen Snellings will serve as the team’s no. 2 holding midfield and has already impressed Lawson in their short time together.
Senior Cole Partain will be one of the starters along the frontline.
“He’s a great distributor of the ball, and he’s played a lot of soccer,” Lawson said. “He is going to be the guy who our offense goes through. He’s like a point guard on the field.”
Senior Kenzavian Patrick will be a first year starter but has experience in the system and will be chomping on the bit to take advantage of his larger role this season.
“He’s got a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net, but I’m not sure we will have a leading goal scorer per say,” Lawson said. “I think you’ll see several players getting in on the goals.” Braidyn and Anthony Patrick could figure into the equation upfront as well.