The Madison County boys’ soccer team had a monumental year in 2019, finishing third in the region and making the state playoffs for the first time ever.
But, the program graduated 13 players from a roster that didn’t substitute all that much. Most programs of Madison County’s stature would be looking at a rebuilding year, but third year head coach Jose Rodriguez says the 2020 Red Raiders will build on the 2019 team’s legacy while being their own, unique team.
“We’re not going to be able to play the same style that we did last year, which was a possessive style,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to play a lot more direct this year. Defensively, we have some things to fix, I think the boys have room to grow mentality-wise. We have what we have, and we’re going to maximize. We are going to try to turn what we have into gold.
“Not only are we returning some keys players, we have a total of 31-32 club players. That little bit of experience, even if they’re not playing the highest quality of club soccer, they’re getting more reps, they’re getting more games under their belts, they’re getting more comfortable with certain situations.”
In many ways, who Madison County returns is more important than who it lost. The core of the 2019 team was midfielders Landon Dougherty and Eric Bravo. They reprise their roles this year and Rodriguez says fellow upperclassman Jaemon Adkins will join them as the leader of the defensive third.
“Those guys are the core right down the middle. Fantastic players and fantastic leaders as our captains,” he said. “Eric brings a lot of speed, a lot of tenacity and a lot of fight. That kid is not going to turn down any challenge you throw his way. He is the energy of the team, Landon is the heart, he is passion. He listens to what I say, I can tell him to do the most crazy things and he’s going to do it.
“Jaemon, to me, is the rock in the backfield. He does not shake. You can score 10 goals on him and he’s still going to stay in the game mentally and physically. They are three amazing players to have on the team.”
BUILDING AROUND THE CORE
Rodriguez immediately mentioned Cesar Bolanos when asked about which other players fans need to watch in 2020 saying he has the potential to be a fantastic player. Eddie Nido is a player Rodriguez says can play many positions on the field including wing and striker. He also mentioned Manuel Robledo as a key player.
In the frame, Kaleb Lee is touted as one of the best keepers in Region 8-AAAA, and the region is traditionally known for great goal keeping.
DEEPER TEAM IN 2020
Despite losing 13 seniors, Rodriguez believes he has more players he can rely on this season. That was evident in Madison County’s season opener Tuesday night against East Hall where Rodriguez constantly switched out players.
“Last year, I couldn’t make that many subs,” he said. “Last year was just my starting 11 and we crossed our fingers. This year, I’m constantly rotating wingers and marking backs. I’m fully comfortable putting players in different spots.”