By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s never easy when a soccer team loses a two-time 25-goal scorer and an All-League goalkeeper.
That’s what the North Arlington boys’ soccer team is trying to endure, after four-year starting net minder Robert Marrero and Observer Male Athlete of the Year Tyler Krychkowski graduated and moved on to collegiate soccer.
“We basically had to revamp how we’ve been playing,” said Jesse Dembowski, who began his third season as the head coach of the Vikings this fall. “We had to establish more of a passing game. We’re working on team chemistry without Tyler, who was our leader, and Robert. We don’t have a scorer like Tyler, but if we can pass the ball, move it around more, we can get better shots.”
Dembowski believes that the passing attack approach is working.
“We definitely have a much better passing game and we don’t have to rely on one person to take the shots,” Dembowski said. “We’re taking the shots where we have the ability to do so.”
So far, the approach has worked, as the Vikings are off to a solid 2-2 start, despite the major losses to graduation.
Senior Kevin Goffredo is the Vikings’ starting goalkeeper. Goffredo has already recorded a shutout win over McNair Academic of Jersey City and is getting more comfortable with his starting role.
“He’s adapting to it,” Dembowski said. “He’s been very aggressive and he’s controlling the defense. He’s already made a lot of impressive saves. It’s a huge relief for me, knowing that we had someone who could step in and take over the position like he’s owned it. He’s done a fine job.”
Senior Justin Cerisola, one of two identical twins on the squad, is the team’s sweeper.
“He’s done very well and controls the defense well back there,” Dembowski said. “He understands the position and has taken it as a challenge. He also knows where his other defenders are.”
Junior P.J. Sirotiak is the team’s stopper. Sirotiak has moved over from the wing positions he played last year.
“He’s a very intense player who is full of energy,” Dembowski said. “He works well with Justin. They listen to each other and he communicates well. He definitely fills a void at that position.”
The other two defenders are John Cerisola, the other twin, and Gabe Rossi.
“I feel very comfortable with our back line,” Dembowski said. “They’re getting good chemistry together. They’ve even started some attacks from the back and I like that. It’s a huge thing to have that ability.”
Junior Danny Cordeiro is the Vikings’ center midfielder. Cordeiro scored five goals in limited action last year, missing most of the season with an ankle injury.
“Even with that, he had about 10 assists, so I knew if he was healthy, he would do fine,” Dembowski said.
Cordeiro is more than fine, having found the net four times in the win over McNair.
“He definitely controls the midfield,” Dembowski said. “I think he’s going to have a big season.”
Junior Derek Perez is the team’s workhorse. Perez is not the biggest guy around, but he gives of himself every time he laces up the cleats.
“Derek is a hard worker who just keeps going and going,” Dembowski said. “He also knows the game well. He runs circles around the opponents. He’s just a tough kid.”
Freshman Marvin Caballero has been a pleasant surprise at midfield.
“He has good size and strength,” Dembowski said. “He’s come in and given us a huge lift.”
Sophomore Jose Ruiz rounds out the midfield.
“We really have a good sophomore class that is going to help us down the road,” Dembowski said. “Jose is already really experienced and he has another two years with us.”
Sophomore Conrad Malinowski, another of that talented class of Viking sophomores, is a solid forward.
“He does a very good job of supporting the midfield,” Dembowski said.
Joseph Cappelluti, yet another sophomore, is the other starting forward.
Dembowski is also getting solid play from senior defender Bilil Jahic, a transfer from Bosnia, who is fitting in well, sophomore midfielder Frank Pace and sophomore defender Ed Lozada.
“As long as the chemistry stays together, we should do alright,” Dembowski said. “We’re playing well together right now. When they’re on, they’re very good. We just need a little consistency right now. As long as we get that, we should have a good season.”
And who knows? Maybe the Vikings can win more games than they did last year, when they had nine wins, including an opening round win in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state playoffs.
“We have to hope for that,” Dembowski said.