A look at the top storylines for high school boys' soccer:
1. End of an era
The state’s winningest soccer coach will make his farewell tour this season. Apple Valley’s Chuck Scanlon said his 37th year leading the Eagles likely will be his last. The 61-year-old retired from teaching a year ago and is 90 percent sure he’s ready to retire from soccer as well. He is nearing 600 career victories, has won nine state championships, and has been named national coach of the year on several occasions. Scanlon is the only coach Apple Valley has known. He took over the program when it began in 1978. It would be fitting if his career ended with a final run to the Metrodome, but Scanlon said his team is somewhat inexperienced. Scanlon has proved, however, that he has what it takes to prepare players for playoff time.
2. Staying together
Elk River and Blaine are hoping their respective unique team chemistries will create an advantage on the field this season. Elk River’s spine (middle of the field) has played together since they were 12 years old. Blaine’s leadership goes even farther back. Its seniors have been playing together since they were 8 years old and are familiar with everyone’s tendencies. Both team’s coaches are relying on this history to produce successful seasons.
3. Academy effect
Eden Prairie lost two more players to the Minnesota Thunder Academy’s U.S. Development program. The Eagles have lost eight players over the past two years to the Academy. Coaches continue to convey frustration with the loss of players, but some have heard of players considering a return to high school soccer. DeLaSalle’s Mukwelle Akale considered doing so this season and will keep his options open.
Prairie Seeds Academy will be under close watch. The Brooklyn Park-based charter school was disqualified from last year’s Class A state tournament after a fight broke out in the section final and unveiled several eligibility violations. This wasn’t the first time the school was investigated by the Minnesota State High School League, but has since been upheld as a member school and even bumped to Class 2A this season. The school recently hired a new athletic director to help keep things in order and keep the spotlight only on competing.