By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s not every day that a high school soccer team gets a player who could move from forward to midfield with ease, then score 30 goals and add 19 assists in the process.
But that’s what Danny Cordeiro did for the North Arlington boys’ soccer team last fall, en route to becoming the 2013-14 Observer Male Athlete of the Year. Cordeiro is already weaving his magic for the New Jersey Institute of Technology soccer squad.
So when the 2014 boys’ soccer campaign kicked off recently, the Vikings had to learn about life without Cordeiro.
“It’s not easy,” said NA head coach Jesse Dembowski. “We do have a solid senior group this year, but no one who could do what Danny did. As a group, the team is very dedicated and determined.”
That’s already been proven, as the Vikings have marched out to a 4-0 start thus far, including big wins over Saddle Brook and Becton Regional last week.
“We have a lot of younger kids coming up who have a lot of talent,” Dembowski said.
Senior Matt Smykowski is the Vikings’ main man in net. Smykowski became the team starter with roughly 10 games remaining last season. The Vikings ended the year at 9-7-1.
“Matt is a tall kid who was our JV (junior varsity) goalie for two years,” Dembowski said. “He’s very confident in goal and not afraid to come out of the goal to make plays.”
The sweeper is senior Nick Awad.
“He’s a tall, physical player,” Dembowski said. “We used to have him in the midfield, but he naturally gravitated toward the defense.”
The stopper is senior Moises Polanco, who started last year at the position.
The rest of the back line will be made of seniors Ed Lozado and Frank Pace and junior C.J. Burbach.
Senior Vinnie Ribeiro is the top returning starter in the midfield. Ribiero scored eight goals last year.
Fellow senior Jose Ruiz is another returning player in the midfield. Dembowski likes Ruiz’s experience and leadership.
Sophomore Cristiano Neves is another fine player in the midfield. Neves had a goal and an assist in the solid 4-0 win over Becton last week.
Junior Marvin Caballero is another Viking who will give Dembowski stability in the midfield.
“Marvin was a starter last year, but then he got hurt and missed the season,” Caballero said. “He will be big this year.”
Sophomore Hudson Ribiero is a solid forward. The younger brother of Vinnie had two goals and an assist in the win over Becton.
Senior Joe Cappelluti will be the other force to be reckoned with at forward.
“He was a goalie at the beginning of last season, then we moved him to forward and he scored a few goals,” Dembowski said.
Cappelluti scored six goals in his limited time in the forward line for the Vikings last fall.
So the makings are there for a special season for the Vikings, even after the departure of a special player.
“I like our team,” Dembowski said. “I still have big expectations. A lot of them came in and knew that they needed to step up. They have moved up together and they’re getting strong together.”
The four wins to start the season is proof that they can move on with success.