High schools

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ SOCCER NOTEBOOK

Malden soccer has forged the right chemistry

Malden's Leonardo Lima Antunes (11) and Winthrop's Abdelrahman Hamada (13), left, and Rilind Bytgi (cq 4) during their matchup in Malden. After a disastrous season in 2016, Malden is one of the best in the Northeastern Conference. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe (Sports, mullen)
Josh Reynolds for the Globe
Malden's Leonardo Lima Antunes (11) weaves through Winthrop defenders Abdelrahman Hamada (left) and Rilind Bytgi (right) in Monday’s Northeastern Conference matchup. The host Golden Tornadoes improved to 11-1-2 with a 3-0 victory.

There was a track record of success for the Malden boys’ soccer program. An undefeated regular season in 2014 followed by a run to the Division 1 North semifinals. A two-loss campaign in 2015 that resulted in a North quarterfinal appearance.

But last fall was not much fun.

The Golden Tornadoes failed to qualify for the tournament with a 7-9-3 slate. The numbers suggest that Malden had trouble finishing its scoring opportunities.

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This year’s captains contend that discourse amongst teammates, and the resulting poor chemistry, overrode the talent on the roster.

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Times have changed. There are no rifts, and the Golden Tornadoes are acing chemistry.

Malden was unbeaten through its first 12 matches, 10-0-2, before dropping a 1-0 decision to Lowell on Saturday afternoon. But they bounced back on Monday, blanking Winthrop, 3-0.

“One year has made a big difference for us,” said keeper Manuel Quesada-Nylen , a senior captain who registered his nine shutout of the season on Monday.

“Most of us have been playing together since the fifth grade, fourth grade, forever.” He, in fact, was part of a U14 Malden travel team that captured a state title in 2013 (a 5-0 win over Harvard).

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“We got a couple new guys, but they fit right in with us and we welcomed them with open arms because we are all here to do the same thing.”

Score and win. The 1-0 loss to Lowell was the outlier. In its 11-1-2 start, Malden has outscored the opposition, 44-13.

The Golden Tornadeso play unselfishly, read each other’s runs well, are stable in the back, and keep their shape. The chemistry now is impeccable and indicative of a group that has been playing together for years.

The transformation began prior last spring.

The captain-elects got the group together to play, continuing to do so throughout the summer. Each player took accountability for their role and knew that they would need to work together to be successful this season.

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By the time preseason officially began, the team was well acclimated.

“These guys started training in April,” said 14-year coach Jeremiah Smith.

“This was a long process, it wasn’t ‘hey let’s show up in August and start playing. This was dedication on all of these players’ part; they dedicated themselves to their season.”

Knowing the talent level, Malden had little reservation about setting a high bar. After draws in their first two matches against Medford and Salem, the Golden Tornadoes ripped off 10 straight wins. Six of those victories were by three-plus goals.

“If you’re winning, you’re having a good time,” said senior midfielder Joey Costa , also a captain.

“But it’s keeping the group together and keeping them focused on one goal that makes a team what it is. So what we’ve been focusing on one mind-set and one goal, which is reach the state tournament and then win the state title.”

Senior captain Patrick Pereira , on the varsity squad since his sophomore season, said the players are determined to prove that last season was an anomaly.

“As a team, we know that every year Malden holds a high expectation to be a wonderful team, and if we don’t it just doesn’t look good upon the school or the soccer program” said Pereira.

“Especially entering this year, we were expecting to do big things because Massachusetts expects Malden to be great.”

Corner kicks

 St. John’s Prep, ranked seventh in this week’s Globe Top 20, has risen to a 8-0-2 record via a balanced offense. However, coach David Crowell credits a trio of seniors, midfielder Brian Brennan , winger Mitch Collins and striker Steven Yakita , for playing at a very high level. The three have combined for 28 goals and 23 assists to lead the Eagles to the top of the Catholic Conference.

“Their assist numbers, which almost equal their goal totals, show how unselfish they are and how well they work together and for each other,” Crowell said.

 Malden makes its first appearance in the Top 20 this season, at No. 18. The Golden Tornadoes rattled off 10 straight wins from Sept. 13 to Oct. 5. The 20th spot, meanwhile, is occupied by Pentucket. The Cape Ann team is currently enjoying a 4-0 stretch in which they’ve outscored its opponents by a combined 12-4 scoreline. The Sachems are 7-1-1.

 North Andover has cruised through the first half of the year, and head coach Kyle Wood said junior Thomas Cossingham has proven instrumental along the way. The striker has seven goals and seven assists. He had two tallies and two helpers for the Scarlet Knights (9-0) in wins over Andover (6-1) and Billerica (3-0) last week..

  After running rampant for the first month of the season, Duxbury met its match last Friday when it drew Pembroke, 2-2. The Dragons are currently 7-0-2.

Players of the Week

Ryan Brady, Archbishop Williams – During a recent 3-0-1 stretch, the senior forward notched six goals, including game-winners against Bishop Fenwick, North Quincy and Arlington Catholic.

Brian Brennan, St. John’s Prep – With 11 goals and 10 assists thus far, Brennan has made the most of his senior season. Brennan, also a captain, has guided the Eagles to a 5-0 record in the Catholic Conference.

Michael Jones, Wayland – The senior forward became the Warriors’ hat-trick hero last Tuesday in a 3-2 win vs. Weston. With Wayland trailing 2-0 with 20 minutes to go, he rattled off three strikes to preserve a 5-0-3 unbeaten start.

Ibrahim Kyeyune, Waltham – The Hawks downed Brookline, 2-0, on Saturday, with the senior captain snagging the winner with 10 minutes left, his fourth goal of the season.

Francesco Valagussa, Arlington – As the Ponders comfortably navigate the Middlesex League, the junior midfielder deserves plenty of credit. He has eight goals and three assists.

Games to Watch

Tuesday, Dover-Sherborn at Norton (3:30 p.m.) – After losing their first game of the season last Friday to Concord-Carlisle, D-S (7-1-1) searches for a return to the win column.

Tuesday, North Andover at Methuen (7 p.m.) – The eighth-ranked Scarlet Knights (9-0) look to remain undefeated when they travel across the Merrimack River to face the Rangers.

Tuesday, Wayland at Lincoln-Sudbury (7 p.m.) – In Dual County League action, the third-ranked Warriors (5-0-3) will try to fend off one of last year’s Division 1 North finalists.

Wednesday, Roxbury Latin at Milton Academy (3:30 p.m.) – Two of the Independent School League’s top teams will clash when the Foxes (3-2) and Mustangs (5-1-2) square off.

Friday, Mansfield at Taunton (3:45 p.m.) – The Hornets (7-0-2) have emerged atop the Hockomock, but another conference test awaits.

Correspondent Jonathan Sigal also contributed to this story.