NEW YORK CITY — Martin Luther King HS is practically in a league of its own when it comes to boys soccer, winning 14 of the last 17 city championships.
Nor surprisingly, the Knights are again overwhelming favorites to win the PSAL Class A title this fall.
But who can contend with mighty MLK this fall? Beacon should provide the stiffest competition, while the CHSAA is a three-way race between Fordham Prep, St. Francis Prep and Archbishop Molloy.
Leading the way for MLK this year is midfielder Jethro Dede, who the coach said is unequivocally the best player in the city.
“Jethro is one of the best leaders I’ve ever had, a natural leader who fires them up and he’s a great player,” MLK coach Martin Jacobson said. “He can do it all. We’re very fortunate.”
Jacobson said this year’s squad lacks the depth of previous teams, but there’s no doubting the talent, including forward Amara Sesay and Ibrahim Lakanobo, who scored the winning goal in last year’s PSAL final and anchors the MLK defense along with fellow junior Amando Sanchez, who has been on team since his freshman year.
Beacon was young and inexperienced last year, but they return a strong core from a squad that finished 10-3 a year ago and lost to Bryant in the playoffs.
Senior midfielder Rhys McIntyre, who had seven goals and three assists last year, and senior forward Ronaldo Charlton, who had six goals and three assists, are the top returning scoring threats. Junior defender Apostolos Polianidis, who was third in the Manhattan A division with nine assists, should be one of Beacon’s top playmakers.
Also returning is junior midfielder Daniel O’Grady, junior defender Gabe Armstrong and senior goalkeeper Alex Coste, who played for the Red Bulls Academy team last year.
In the CHSAA, defending champion Archbishop Molloy is among a small group of contenders.
Led by the senior trio of goalkeeper John Young and defenders Anthony Iurillo and Eric Alerte, Molloy might have the stoutest defense in the city. That’s nothing new for the Stanners, who had 13 shutouts and conceded just three goals in their final 11 wins en route to a 14th CHSAA title last year.
Offensively, Denes Kostel, the coach Andy Kostel’s son, is the catalyst, but the senior is currently out with a concussion. In his absence, Molloy will rely on several players to score goals, including juniors Chris Ray and Daniel Corridan and senior Michael Mendez.
“When Denes was there, everything ran through Denes,” Andy Kostel said. “With him out, it changes the team to a totally different kind of team. It might be a benefit, I don’t know, to get more kids involved.”
St. Francis Prep graduated a pair of all-city caliber players in midfielder Eric Mirkov, now at St. John’s, and forward Kenny Redzematovic, the school’s all-time leading scorer.
But Terriers coach Franco Purificato simply plugs hopes. Senior Brandon Silva is one of the city’s top playmakers in center midfield, Joseph LoBosco is a solid sweeper and Nico Vasilakos and Mike Frangos are big and versatile center forwards.
What’s scarier still for the Terriers opposition is that the team is full of talented juniors. Only three players will graduate in June.
“Most of these kids were in the JV final and lost and they want to get back there,” Purificato said. “They definitely have something to prove.”
Fordham Prep lost to Molloy in last year’s CHSAA final, 1-0, and graduated nine seniors, but the Rams are again one of the city’s elite squads.
Pacing Fordham Prep is a crop of versatile and skillful players, including David Barry, Charlie Sullivan, Richard Moesner and Chris Paganelli.
Collegiate is the three-time defending NYSAIS champion, but the Dutchmen have only two returning starters — defensive midfielders Spyro Jacobson and Tirdad Shahbazi. As a result, the chase for that title should be wide open, with Riverdale, Horace Mann and Poly Prep among the contenders.