2022 Woodstock Academy prep soccer preview
Last year was an experiment.
For a first time, Woodstock Academy fielded a boys prep soccer program.
It was a first not only for the school but also the new head coach.
Joe Cherackal had been coaching soccer at Wesleyan University, working with, generally, American collegiate soccer athletes.
This was a whole new game.
That’s not the case this fall.
“I understand the institution a bit better. A year of experience also gives you a bit more confidence and having worked with internationals for a year after coming from a University environment, I now have an idea of what to expect culturally,” Cherackal said.
It’s a diverse group again this season.
The primary language spoken on the field is Spanish.
The majority of Cherackal’s players are from Spain this season. There is also one from Mexico, two from Canada, a German goalie and a player from the Dominican Republic.
But, on the field, it can be difficult.
Especially when it comes to building chemistry.
“Communication is everything and we have the kids from Germany and Canada and one from Connecticut that don’t speak Spanish and that is a huge limiting factor in the early stages when it comes to gelling. We’re trying to preach to the team to speak a common language but it’s difficult on the field when, naturally, you will speak in the moment in your own tongue,” Cherackal said.
The Centaurs also have several players back for a second season including Marc Ballart who is the team’s sole captain right now.
Also returning are Jordi Sanabra, Pol Saiz, Jesus de la Torre and Brian Manon.
“It’s very beneficial to have them because they were in the exact same position (last year) as 19 other players are (this year). To have them be a voice to lean on for the most basic requests like signing out properly for example, they can go to these guys,” Cherackal said. “I wish they would be more vocal leaders but their natural disposition is to quietly lead by example. They have been talking a little more than last year and are really good kids to have.”
The Centaurs started their schedule on Thursday with a 6-0 win over Pomfret School on the road.
Rodrigo Minguela Martin, Saiz, Ballart, Danyil Uchytel, and Javier Menendez all scored and the Griffins helped a bit with an own goal.
Martin dished out two assists and Menendez added one.
“They realized that they could play their game. They don’t have to adapt to this style. We’re not bringing them here to change them altogether, they have qualities of their own which are good enough and (Thursday) was the first time they believed and they put it all together. It was beautiful,” Cherackal said.
It does take a bit for international soccer athletes to adjust to the physicality displayed in the U.S. especially when the strength of a team is its technical ability on the field.
“The Western European kids have noted that the game here is more physical. They play the game differently here so technically is where we will be strongest and our tactics are also innate to our players. I’m pleased with our progression,” Cherackal said.
The Centaurs have 21 matches on the schedule currently and will likely play 23 prior to the Thanksgiving break.
But the big matches are not against a particular opponent but rather when the college coaches are in attendance.
On Sunday at Northfield-Mt. Hermon when the Centaurs play Milton School, sixteen college coaches including two from the Atlantic Coast Conference, two from Patriot League schools and five more from smaller schools in New England are expected to be on hand.
“We’re just three weeks in since the start of the preseason, but that’s what this is about. To have the game (against Pomfret) will give them a lot of confidence to play this way and, most important, to look attractive in the eyes of a third-party evaluator,” Cherackal said.