North Arlington boys’ soccer squad looks to overcome early season woes

The North Arlington High School boys’ soccer team entered the 2018 season with high hopes and expectations.

After all, the Vikings welcomed back a host of talented players from last year’s team that won 11 matches. They believed that they had the makings of a season to remember.

And it may turn out to be that way come November. But right now, the Vikings own a 1-2-2 record that is certainly unique and has to be considered disappointing.

“It’s a first for me,” said veteran North Arlington head coach Jesse Dembowski, who began his eighth season as the head coach of the Vikings, of his unique record. “I feel like we’ve made mistakes in key situations. We’ve also been very unlucky. We’ve hit the post several times with shots and hit the crossbar. But we have to learn from our mistakes and move on. We have a pretty young team, so I think we can fix the mistakes.”

The Vikings also had a colossal mistake against Saddle Brook. They scored an own goal with no Saddle Brook player within 10 yards of the ball. The result of the own goal led to a 1-1 tie.

But Dembowski is confident that the Vikings can turn their fortunes around in time to make a run in the NJIC-Meadowlands Division and also the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs.

“We didn’t have a good start to the season,” Dembowski said. “We ran into a little bit of trouble early on, but we have the talent to have a good season.”

The Vikings suffered a huge loss when long-time goalkeeper Ali Timur graduated and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. Timur was between the pipes for the Vikings for all four years of high school and earned All-NJIC Meadowlands  honors three times.

But Dembowski knew that he had a good one waiting in the wings. Sophomore Tony Alho, a talented three-sport performer, has stepped in for Timur and done a fantastic job manning the net.

“He’s been around the game his whole life,” Dembowski said of Alho, whose father is a dedicated youth coach. “He has great feet and has been making saves with his feet. He punts it well. He can throw it well because of his baseball skills. He has all the tools to be a very good goalie.”

Because Alho has been so solid in goal, Dembowski has decided to go with only three defenders.

“We think Tony can handle a lot of it on his own back there,” Dembowski said. “We have a strong midfield. If we can focus on our attack, we’ll be better off. We need to possess the ball more.”

The center back is Abd Chelkhali, who started as the team’s stopper last year.

“We count on him a lot,” Dembowski said. “We need him to control the ball.  We’re dependent on him being strong back there.”

The right back is senior Gary Mendoza and the left back is senior Patrick Czachor.

“We try to rely on their experience as being a strength to our team,” Dembowski said. “Scoring was a problem last year, so we’re looking to push the ball up to be more successful.”

The Vikings count on two players to handle the defensive midfield slot. Juniors Rogerio Claro and Jaden Segura are rotating time back at the defensive midfield.

Senior Austin Gilchrist is the team’s very talented center midfielder. Gilchrist has been a four-year varsity starter. He missed most of last season due to a broken collarbone.

“He’s our workhorse,” Dembowski said. “We depend on him to put the ball in the right spots. He can shoot the ball or pass with accuracy. He played defender last year, but we moved him to the midfield this year so he can do more things with the ball. He’s just a great player.”

Gilchrist is also one of the nicest kids around. He treats everyone – teammates and opponents alike – with reverence.

‘He’s very respectful,” Dembowski said.

Sophomore Victor Batista is another center midfielder.

“He has great control of the ball,” Dembowski said. “He’s also a good distributor.”

Sophomore Jared Velazquez and freshman Ethan DeJesus are also in the midfielder. A player to watch in the midfield is freshman Thiago Alves, who has a ton of talent and potential to match.

“He has a very good future,” Dembowski said of Alves. “The kid is very good.”

The Vikings’ forward line is very talented, led by senior Eric McKenna, who had 12 goals last year. McKenna is one of the best all-around athletes in Bergen County as a top-flight bowler and baseball player as well as soccer. McKenna was honored as All-NJIC Meadowlands Second Team last season.

The Vikings also have senior Dylan Jurado up front. Jurado had eight goals and 17 assists last season, also earning All-NJIC Meadowlands Second Team honors.

“We’re expecting a lot from them,” Dembowski said. “They’re getting shots this year. They’ve just been a little unlucky so far.”

The Vikings also have sophomore Ethan Hughes to play upfront.

“He’s a good athlete,” Dembowski said. “He has a lot of potential.”

The Vikings will receive a gigantic boost – pardon the pun – when senior Antonio Gigante becomes eligible to play Oct. 1. Gigante transferred to North Arlington from St. Peter’s Prep and has had to sit out the mandatory 30-day period for the NJSIAA transfer rule. Gigante is a fantastic player who will only help the Vikings’ midfield play.

Another midfielder is freshman Matthew Muchotrigo. Junior Kevin Altamora helps the Vikings’ defensive unit.

So can the Vikings overcome their early season woes?

“I think we’re going to be a late bloomer,” Dembowski said. “We seem like we’re coming together. We’re going to be fine.”




North Arlington’s boys’ soccer team is trying to bounce back from a sluggish start to the 2018 season. From left are Gabe Carvalho, Gary Mendoza, Tony Alho, head coach Jesse Dembowski, Michael Awad and Patrick Czachor. Photo by Jim Hague





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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”