The last time the Glasgow High boys soccer team started a season with three straight wins, the majority of the players on this year’s team weren’t even born.
Last week, the Dragons matched that 2002 team’s accomplishment, notching their third win in three tries to start this young season with a 3-0 victory over A.I. du Pont.
“Those teams in the early 2000s were great teams, coached by Bob Bussiere,” said head coach Brian Grant. “We have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Coach and what his teams accomplished. We are humbled to be mentioned in the same breath, historically for the program, with them. We can only hope to have the on-field success that those teams had. Our program embraces the history of Glasgow soccer. Personally, I believe it’s important for our players to understand the history that they are representing.”
With the win, Grant made his own history, securing his 100th victory as a boys head coach in Delaware. His 100 victories have come at Delcastle (two), Hodgson Vo-Tech (35) and his current 63 at Glasgow. Grant also has an additional 26 wins as the girls head coach.
“I am feeling extremely proud of this accomplishment,” he said. “I have set goals for myself as a coach and [now] I have accomplished one of them. I would not have been able to do this without the players that have played for me over the years at Delcastle, Hodgson and Glasgow. Thank you to all of you that have had a hand in each one of these wins. It is greatly appreciated.
“Time to set a new goal … on to 150,” he added.
One-hundred wins aside, Grant is enjoying watching his Dragons get off to their best start in recent years.
“The most pleasant surprise this season has been our start,” he pointed out. “Unfortunately, our teams in recent seasons have gotten off to slow starts the first couple of weeks of the season. So to be 3-0 after the first three games is awesome. And it puts us in a good position to accomplish our goals as a team for 2019.”
Those goals include returning to the state tournament, which Glasgow qualified for last season for the first time since 2010. If the Dragons do earn a berth this year, it will be the first time since the 2002-03 season that they will have done so in consecutive years.
“Any time a team has success, in terms of making the postseason, it goes a long way with helping grow the overall success of that program,” Grant explained. “When our middle school kids see that we are having successful seasons here at Glasgow, it fosters an excitement and hopefully many of those kids choose to stay at Glasgow instead of picking a charter or vocational school. Last year’s success has created a hunger for more.”
Grant is relying on his veterans to instill that hunger throughout not just the team, but the program as a whole.
“I think our greatest strength so far is just our attitude and desire,” Grant said. “With having a large number of returning players in the program both varsity and junior varsity, it breeds familiarity. And the players know the expectations and the work that needs to be put in to accomplish our goals.”
Grant pointed out three returning starters in particular who have been key varsity players for several years. Senior Oscar Velazquez is a four-year starter returning for his third consecutive year as the team’s starting goalkeeper after playing on defense his freshman year. He was a second-team all-conference selection last year after tallying five shutouts with an .844 save percentage.
“He is the backbone of our team,” Grant said of the co-captain. “He has good technical ability and vision.”
At the other end of the pitch, senior co-captain Kevin Ramirez returns after finishing third in scoring last season (4 goals, 7 assists). He will be relied on to carry much of the scoring load with the graduation of the team’s top two goal scorers, Raul Lopez and Andy Ngassa. Ramirez is off to a hot start with five goals and three assists in the Dragons’ first three games.
“Kevin is our workhorse,” Grant said. “He makes our offense run. Kevin is the ‘Jack of all trades.’ He plays multiple positions depending on what the situation in the game calls for.”
Roaming the middle of the field is junior midfielder Rogelio Sampedro-Gonzalez, who typically plays in the attacking center-midfield position. Grant is looking for Gonzalez to improve on his four-goal total last season.
“With the three strikers from last season, Rogelio wasn’t called on as much to be a main scoring threat for us,” Grant pointed out. “However, he has good vision and pace to control the middle of the park. Many times, he would initiate the play that would lead to a goal, but it wouldn’t show up in the box score.”
Senior George Gibon and sophomore Jesus Gomez-Gutierrez are quickly adapting to starting roles at the striker positions. Both have tallied two goals apiece in Glasgow’s three wins.
“Both players look to be up to the task to maintain our three-pronged attack from last season,” Grant said.
Unlike the offense, other than the goalie position, the defense continues to be a work in progress after the graduation of two of four starters from last year’s squad.
“We are still currently working on the personnel to fill those positions,” Grant said. “Right now, it’s defense by committee.”
While some of the technical aspects of this year’s team are still being worked out, Grant is confident as the season unfolds this team has an opportunity to be as good, if not better, than last year’s state-tournament team.
“We sat down as a team a few days before the first game of the season and set goals for ourselves,” he explained. “The coaching staff impressed upon our team to make the goals realistic and attainable. Our main goals are to win Flight B and make the state tournament. But our goal is always to improve each day, work hard, and support each other.”