Expectations are always high for the Brentwood boys soccer team, and they wouldn't have it any other way.
“We are used to it,” Brentwood head coach Ron Eden said of the lofty expectations of his team. “Every year we are the number one or two (seed) and it doesn't matter what we have or what we lose, everybody puts the line on us. And we don't mind that.”
This year’s Brentwood squad was selected to finish as the top Class AA team in Suffolk county by the Suffolk coaches preseason poll. After all, Eden has led Brentwood to impressive feats over his 23 years of coaching. The team has won nine county championships, seven Long Island championships and two state championships.
Eden said the players who come to Brentwood have the desire to be great and to carry on a tradition of winning.
“There is a continuity to the program where each year we try to keep the team as half underclassmen and half as seniors,” Eden said. “A lot of these kids, their brothers or family members, have played for Brentwood. So, there is a tradition here that they try to emulate.”
Even though the team is the preseason favorites, Eden said his team will not overlook anyone on their schedule.
“We never take other teams for granted and it doesn't matter who it is,” Eden said. “Our motto is that everything counts; every game counts, every bounce counts and every scrimmage counts. Really good teams make their own luck.”
Brentwood will have 19 players back from last year, including midfielder Brandon Yanez, center back Alex Garcia, defender Sergio Ventura, forward Nathaniel Austin and goalkeeper Anthony Molina.
Yanez, who will be relied upon to score a majority of Brentwood’s goals, said the team has what it takes to win a Suffolk Class AA championship.
“I think we can do really well this season,” Yanez said. “We have a strong team and I feel like everybody has the same mindset. Even on the bench, we have people who can do the business as well.”
Brentwood’s defense, which will be anchored by Molina again this season, allowed only eight goals in 17 games. Eden said he expects the same production from the defense, but he anticipates the offense will score more than the 40 goals it scored in 2018, which ended with a loss to Whitman in the quarterfinals of the Suffolk AA playoffs.
"The kids play really well together. They like each other and they hang out together,” Eden said. “They all play on a couple of different club teams. It’s just a good blend of guys … I’m unsold on where we are going to end up, but I like what I see. They just have something and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Most of the good teams and championship teams have that bond.”
The main threats to Brentwood in Class AA are Ward Melville, Commack and Whitman. Richard Morel was Whitman’s leading scorer last season with 14 goals and is entering his junior year. Whitman head coach John DiGiacomo said he expects Morel and Roberto Alfaro to get even better this season.
"As a sophomore, to be one of the top goal scorers as Richard (Morel) was, that was a plus,” DiGiacomo said. “They look a little bit more seasoned heading into the season.”
Morel said his team, which won the Suffolk Class AA championship in 2018, is not worried about being selected to finish second in the coaches preseason poll.
“We just focus on ourselves and try to progress as a team,” Morel said. “But right now, Commack is in our league, so that is who we are focusing on.”
DiGiacomo said matchups against Brentwood and Commack are always difficult and he doesn’t expect this season to be any different.
“When you play quality teams like Commack and Brentwood, you know you are in for a challenge,” DiGiacomo said. “We are just looking forward to the season.”