By program standards, 2011 was a subpar year for the Ridgefield High boys soccer team. A 2-7-2 start prevented Ridgefield from making the conference playoffs, but the Tigers were able to earn a state tourney berth by going unbeaten (5-0-1) in their final six regular-season games.
“In five of the seven games we lost we were ahead,” said Phil Bergen, who is entering his 10th season as Ridgefield’s head coach. “That’s something we have to avoid this season. We have to close out games.”
The Tigers may try to put opponents away by outscoring them.
“Our strength is scoring,” said Bergen, whose team returns four starters. “We have players who can create and finish.”
To take advantage of his team’s attacking ability, Bergen is implementing a midfield-heavy 3-5-2 formation this season.
“It may be a few games before we adjust to it, but I think it suits our personnel best.”
Ridgefield’s two most dangerous players look to be senior central midfielder Joey DeVivo and senior striker Kent Coleman, who missed nearly all of last season with an injury.
“Those two are both a threat to score whenever they have the ball,” said Bergen about DeVivo and Coleman. “They also play on the same club team and work well together on the field.”
Senior Liam Weir is the likely starter up front with Coleman, although several other players, including senior Nico de Stefanis and junior Lincoln Phillips, are also possibilities at striker.
Junior Daniel Standish is the front-runner alongside DeVivo in central midfield, with freshman Matthew Wilson also expected to play regularly. “He’s very creative,” said Bergen about Wilson. “He knows the game very well.”
Two juniors, Sam Isaac and Thomas Guillaume, could also get time as center midfielders.
Ridgefield has speed and skill on the flanks in junior outside midfielders Killian Clancy and Zach Bonitatebus. Bonitatebus may also be deployed as a forward. Seniors Chip Papa, Austin Inman and Sean Denis and juniors Will Bordash and Zach Weinstock are also options for outside midfield spots.
Senior Travis Leiter leads the depth chart at the holding (or defensive) midfield spot. Juniors Ryan Meagan and Tyler Welton are among the top reserves.
Brothers Connor Findlay (senior) and Adam Findlay (junior) figure to have prominent midfield roles once they return from injuries. Connor Findlay is a returning starter, while Adam Findlay missed most of 2011 with a knee injury.
“We have great midfield depth,” said Bergen. “I have a lot of options both in the center and on the outside.”
The three-back defense includes senior Alex Northcutt, a returning starter, on the right side and junior Ryan Casolo on the left. Casolo could also get minutes as holding midfielder. Senior Patrick Lerchi will start as the team’s central defender.
Seniors James Ahle and Will La Jeunesse and junior Josh Reiss are other backline options, as is Clancy, who could move back from midfield.
In goal, junior Nick Steer is the opening day starter, with senior Cal Dearth the top back-up.
Bergen and his team won’t have to waste time seeing how they match up against some of the FCIAC’s toughest teams. The Tigers host perennial power Staples in the season opener today before going on the road to meet highly regarded Greenwich next Tuesday.
“The first few games will be a test,” said Bergen. “There is no easing into the season for us.”