As the regular season wound down, Matt Sloan could only watch as his Hicksville boys soccer teammates kept winning.
The Comets (13-0-2) are deep. They're tough in the back, strong in the midfield and have a handful of capable goal- scorers.
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Make no mistake, though. Sloan is the key to an offense that outscored opponents 48-12 this year.
The junior missed the last five matches with a groin injury, but his 12 goals were only two behind Glen Cove's Delwin Hernandez's 14 for the most in Nassau.
And this is Sloan's first season as a forward. He served as the team's center back last year.
"I knew he would be able to score," said coach Scott Starkey, who added that he expects the 6-1, 185-pound forward to be healthy for Wednesday's Nassau AA quarterfinal against No. 8 Great Neck South. "I wasn't really concerned about it. I knew he could have done it last year, too."
Starkey believed that Nick Rodriguez and John Soderland could anchor the back line this year, enabling Sloan to move up front. Sloan accepted the challenge. He had played only defense and midfield, so he said he watched videotape of professional forwards, particularly Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.
"I wanted to be the type of forward who links with my teammates," Sloan said.
Sloan had only two assists in the regular season, but Starkey praised the junior's ability to create opportunities for his teammates.
"I wanted him to play with his back to the center back or play through him," Starkey said. "He's got the ability to hold up the ball, and that enables the rest of the midfield to advance and we can attack in numbers."
That resulted in Hicksville having three other players with more than five goals: Nickolas Sgaraglio (11), Austin Mars (six) and Storm Strongin (six).
"That's because [Sloan] occupies so much attention," Starkey said.
Starkey said Sloan has progressed each year since starting every game as an eighth-grader. His experience competing overseas with the Olympic Development Program in February 2014 and April 2015 certainly has helped.
"The biggest thing was how different the style of play is in Europe and how much quicker it was," Sloan said. "I came back here and my technical ability was quicker, and I could make decisions a lot quicker. It opened a lot of things up."
Even before Sloan went overseas, he "was the best player on [Hicksville] by a lot" as a freshman, Starkey said. Now he's taller. He's stronger. He gets better touches and plays more consistently, Starkey said.
And with Sloan back from injury, the Comets are excited about how far they can go in this year's playoffs.
"They," Starkey said of any potential future opponent, "don't have a Matt Sloan that they can put out there."