Boys soccer preview: Ridgefield has skill, depth

If victories were synonymous with interest, then the Ridgefield High boys soccer team would be all set.

A record-breaking 106 players attended tryouts this year, according to Phil Bergen, who enters his 14th season as Ridgefield’s head coach.

“We have 33 players on the varsity roster,” said Bergen. “There are some juniors who are good enough to start, but they may have to wait until next season.”

In addition to quantity — the team has 19 seniors — Ridgefield also has experience, as nearly every starter returns from last year’s junior-heavy 6-6-5 squad, which lost to Norwalk (1-0, on penalty kicks) in the qualifying round of the Class LL state tournament.

“We have good players, but now we need to make a good team,” said Bergen. “That can be the most challenging part, getting everyone on the same page.”

The Tigers should be skilled all over the field. The backline features senior sweeper Ben Sasse, senior stopper Nick David and senior left-back Christian DeVivo, while the midfield includes seniors Alex Glass, Will Coffin and Niels van Beek. Up front, seniors Jack Ligouri and Alex Lust flank striker JT Siano, a fellow senior who returns after playing Academy soccer last fall.

“Having all those quality players returning and then adding JT Siano … that is a big boost,” said Bergen. “JT is strong and fast and can finish. He is exactly what we were missing last season.”

The only non-senior starters look to be at right-back (junior Charlie Poremba is the front-runner) and in goal, where Ridgefield must replace John Buczek, one of the team’s standouts last season. Bergen said that juniors Robert Buthorn and Ryan Sheafe and sophomore Ray Dearth are vying to be the first-choice keeper.

“I was a little worried with John Buczek leaving, but I think we will be OK in goal,” said Bergen. “I like what I have seen from the three goalies in the preseason.”

With so many seniors on the roster, the Tigers won’t lack depth or competition for playing time. “We have options, that’s for sure,” said Bergen.

Those choices include senior forwards Johannes Bonwetsch and Lucas Debarbieri; senior midfielders Sam Atterbury, Reid Kagan and Elijah Rudd Dobrin; and senior defenders Shane Bowler, Michael Grevers, Dan Harrington, Peter Stokes, and Andrew Wilson.

“We have way too many quality players,” said Bergen. “But that’s a problem any coach would like to have.”

Other coaches do know about Ridgefield’s potential: The Tigers finished second in a preseason poll among FCIAC coaches.

“Unlike last season, the target is on our back this year,” said Bergen. “We have to accept that. Everyone knows what we have, and we don’t want to lose this opportunity.”

Notes: Production was a problem for Ridgefield last season, as the team scored just 18 goals over its 17 games.

Glass, a center midfielder who could also play as a forward, made the All-FCIAC first team last year. Sasse and Buczek were named to the All-FCIAC West squad.