For St. Paul Como Park boys’ soccer, the 2014 season is more about connecting with each other than repeating the Class 1A state championship.
On Monday’s rainy and cloudy first day of practice at St. Paul’s McMurray Fields, the Cougars tried out dozens of players to fill a varsity roster that has only seven returners from the team that won the first title in any sport in the school’s history.
Another new addition is coach Jonah Fields. A junior varsity and assistant coach for the past seven years, Fields took over for Eric Erickson, who stepped down to coach his middle-school daughters.
“This group is going to have a real challenge coming together,” Fields said. “There’s lots of skill, like last year, but I think the relationships were a little more established last year between the players.”
An added dimension is building those bonds with a diverse team. Players shouted to each other in various languages, reflecting a team that hails from countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America as well as the United States.
Sophomore Malik Yacoub moved from Germany two weeks ago and wore his World Cup winners’ jersey with pride. He said he heard about his new school winning the championship last year and is excited to play to American standards.
“The coach talks more about doing your best, work hard and things like that,” he said. “In Germany, everyone expects that from himself, so the coach doesn’t have to say that. But over here, it’s really good if the coach says that because the whole team gets pushed.”
Senior captain Will Kidd already has a state trophy to his name and said he was pleased with the energy shown at the first practice. But he isn’t thinking much beyond that.
“We just take it one step at time,” Kidd said. “First we have to get through tryouts. We just work hard every day and see where we can get from there.”