Goals Galore? Boys’ Booters To Test Offensive-Minded Shape On The Field This Fall
A typical competitive high school soccer game ends something like 1-0 or 1-1. For a high-scoring match, maybe 3-2.
How about 5-4?
That’s what Newtown High School Coach Charley Amblo, who plans to introduce a lineup with more players at the forward position, has in mind as the Nighthawks begin their second season under his direction.
“It’s a system of play that will be new to our team and perhaps our opponents. It’s going to require a high level of talent,” Amblo said.
This scoring-oriented approach reflects the game from the middle of the 20th Century and also the way some of today’s talented teams play, said Amblo, who will abandon the standard two-forward setup and replace it with an ultra-unusual (and perhaps risky) shape.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Amblo, who is hopeful his theory will work but prepared to switch up the arrangement of players if things are not shaking out as he would like.
Amblo references English player Sir Stanley Matthews, who continued to play the game at its top level past his 50th birthday, when discussing the bygone (back at Newtown) era.
Opponents, no doubt, will be more accustomed to a defensive approach most teams follow. More forwards standing up top stands to catch the other team off guard.
“How are they going to deal with it?” Amblo excitedly wonders.
As much as Newtown’s offense stands to be potent, counter-attacks could make for some easier scoring chances for the opposition. Amblo, though, said he isn’t afraid to win 5-4 or 6-3, for example.
“I want to go for that. It’s more exciting for the kids,” the coach said.
One might think this will put more stress on the Newtown goalkeeper and defense. “I think it’s going to relieve pressure,” Amblo anticipates.
After all, if the Hawks can pile up goals on the other end of the field, giving up a goal will not be as pressure-causing as it is in a lower-scoring contest.
Amblo, who has played and coached soccer at all levels, including professionally, and not just in the United States but also overseas, led Newtown to a strong campaign a year ago.
To the outsider, the outcome looked pretty good. Newtown, which had almost a completely-revamped lineup, went 8-5-3 during the regular slate, handing eventual South-West Conference champion Weston its lone defeat in the process before reaching the conference tourney semifinals.
The Nighthawks captured the Western Connecticut Soccer Officials Association’s Robert Stirling Sportsmanship Award. Amblo was selected as the SWC’s Coach of the Year for Class LL/L schools.
So what is in store for this fall? Just like a year ago, Amblo does not head into the season with win-loss expectations, nor did he implement the offensive approach for the purpose of going X number of rounds into the postseason. Winning is not what it is all about for Amblo.
“For the boys, I try to deemphasize how important it is. I don’t want to jeopardize their development independently,” Amblo said.
“We are in a competitive environment, and we do need to be competitive. How we’re going to be competitive is more important to me than just being competitive,” he added.
Amblo wants to see good playing habits and development of skills.
“We want to win by the fact we’re trying to develop the whole player — body and mind,” Amblo said.
Amblo’s goal is for the program to be student-directed, making the decisions on the field while being mentored by an adult professional. In the summer months, the players, led by the efforts of captains Rick Irving and Duncan O’Leary, were in charge of arranging training sessions.
“It means more to them now because they’ve invested so much time,” Amblo said.
It is clear Amblo’s goals are not win-loss based, but when all is said and done, he is hopeful the hard work team members put in pays off in the form of some playoff success.
“It would be great for these kids if they can be in position to be deep in the conference tournament and get a few rounds deep into the state tournament,” Amblo said.
Early preseason training sessions were intense, with players working toward being game-ready, and the players went into the final week of preseason getting back into game form.
Irving is expected to be the team’s starting goalkeeper, backed up by Chris Shaker; O’Leary is a defender — one of the best in the conference, the coach believes. Another player who has impressed early on in practices is midfielder/striker Jake Gonski, Amblo said.
The Nighthawk booters open the regular season on Saturday, September 14, in a rematch of last season’s Class LL state tourney opener in which host Naugatuck defeated Newtown 1-0. Naugatuck will visit Blue & Gold Stadium for a nonconference clash at noon.
Newtown visits SWC finalist Joel Barlow of Redding, a team NHS defeated last fall, on October 5 at 3 pm, and hosts Weston on OctoRiley Ward,
Justin Stevens takes on the role of associate head coach for the varsity team while overseeing the program’s goalkeepers, Chris O’Heron is the assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach, and Amblo is the lead coach of the freshman team, assisted by Stevens and O’Heron.