Out of the 40 players across the country selected to this year’s High School Soccer All-American game, Milton Academy defender Henri Richter can’t explain how two — he and teammate Zac Sardi-Santos — grew up just over a mile apart in Newton.
The odds are hard to justify.
“It is really crazy and I don’t know if that has ever happened before, or how many times it’s happened that two kids who lived in the same town are both All-Americans — two out of the 40 in the entire country,” said Richter.
Richter and Sardi-Santos say they are honored to play in what they call the “pinnacle of high school soccer.” To those around them, the achievement is not a surprise.
Milton Academy coach Chris Kane knew what he was getting when Richter and Sardi-Santos transferred from Newton North in the fall of 2019. The pair had already cemented themselves as two of the top prospects in the region.
Richter was a standout player for the prominent Boston Bolts club, while Sardi-Santos played for the New England Revolution Academy and had been selected to the US U-14 national team.
They immediately made an impact as sophomores on a Milton Academy team that won the Independent School League and reached the NEPSAC Class A Championship.
“We saw right away that they were outstanding kids and athletes,” said Kane. “Fast forward now and they are exactly what we thought and they are the real deal.”
Now senior co-captains, Richter is committed to Northwestern and Sardi-Santos is set to continue his soccer career in the Ivy League. Together, they’ve helped Milton start 9-1-1 and remain undefeated in the ISL.
Sardi-Santos, easily identifiable on the field by his flowing puffy hair, possesses a booming left-footed shot and explosive moves with the ball at his feet.
The 5-foot-11 Richter calls himself a dictator on the field, always wanting to get other players involved and controlling the pace of the game from his central defense position.
“I like being the point guard,” said Richter.
Sardi-Santos recalls his first impression of Richter when they both committed to Milton. Even though they were both soccer standouts from the same city, the two were mere acquaintances at Newton North since Sardi-Santos was a grade above at the time.
But when they learned they would soon be teammates, a bond formed and the two helped each other through the transition period at a new school. They now consider themselves good friends, often training together during the offseason and helping each other with homework in the classes they share.
The hometown connection and different flares of personality — the reserved Sardi-Santos calls Richter the “energizer” — has meshed well together as co-captains.
“Playing with Henri is amazing, he’s just a boss,” said Sardi-Santos. “He’s energetic and smart which I like about him. The fact that we’re captains together is huge in our relationship. We need to communicate in all aspects of the team and our relationship has really grown in that regard.”
Sardi-Santos and Richter also share similar expectations for themselves, ones that were formed at a young age.
Sardi-Santos, whose parents are Hungarian and Cape Verdean, has traveled around the globe for soccer, partaking in events from California to Croatia. He’s been with the Revolution Academy since he was 12.
Richter has starred for the Bolts since he was 9. He also trained with the German club Eintracht Frankfurt, where his father is from.
“I think I kind of love that people have such a high expectation for me,” said Richter. “We kind of have targets on our back and I’ve always tried to own the pressure. I view it as fuel.”
Outside of soccer, Sardi-Santos and Richter both rely on extracurricular activities to balance out their lives. Richter enjoys playing Beatles songs on the piano to relax, while Sardi-Santos has taken up theatre at Milton Academy.
He performed in the school’s version of “High School Musical” last year and draws on the similarities between theatre and soccer to help him grow as a person.
“I really love putting on a show for people that are watching me and proving to myself that I can give my best performance,” said Sardi-Santos. “I try to perform in both soccer and theatre so that people know I’m good and then I know that I’m good. I have a thrill for competition.”
Before they head off to college and vie for professional careers, Sardi-Santos and Richter hope to capture the NEPSAC Class A Championship after dropping a heartbreaker to Worcester Academy in 2019.
And of course they’ll have their final match together in the All-American game on Dec. 11 in Knoxville, Tenn., representing both Milton Academy and Newton.
“I’m really proud of both of us,” said Sardi-Santos. “We’re two black men from Newton and we have the European connection. We share so many similarities and for both of us to be shining like stars it brings immense joy to my heart.”
▪ Pembroke boys’ soccer team qualified for the MIAA Division 3 tournament with a 4-2 win over Patriot League Fisher Division rival Plymouth South, the sixth time in the seven-year tenure of coach Adam Scott that the No. 19 Titans (10-2-1) are in.
“We’re freaking excited, man,” Scott said. “It’s just one game at a time, but let’s see if we can do some damage.”
The Titans, ranked second in the Globe’s Division 3 power rankings, are led by midfielders Charlie Goncalves (6 goals, 6 assists), Ethan Sullivan (10 goals, 11 assists), and Declan Crowley (7 goals, 8 assists). They have helped Pembroke outscore opponents, 41-14, through 13 games.
Their first nonconference match will be on Thursday, Oct. 28, hosting top-ranked Nauset.
• With 26 goals this season, KIPP Academy senior forward Marco Escobar is six goals shy of 100 for his career for the Panthers (10-4) … Falmouth (3-7-3) held No. 1 Nauset (10-0-2) to a scoreless draw at home on Tuesday, Oct. 12. The Warriors previously blanked Falmouth, 6-0, on Sept. 17 at home.
Games to watch
Tuesday, No. 1 Nauset at Nantucket, 4 pm — The No. 1 Warriors (10-0-2), who are outscoring opponents 44-6, blanked host Nantucket (8-3-1) on Sept. 23, 5-0.
Wednesday, No. 14 St. John’s Prep at No. 7 Masconomet — No. 7 Masco (13-0) has outscored teams 62-6, but the No. 14 Eagles (8-3-3), have not conceded a goal in five games.
Wednesday, No. 2 Arlington at No. 11 Lexington, 4 p.m. — The No. 2 Spy Ponders (10-0-2) are seventh in the Globe’s Division 1 power rankings; the Minutemen (8-2-1) are 11th.
Thursday, No. 3 Newton North at No. 6 Framingham, 3:45 pm — North is first in the Bay State Conference and third in the Globe’s D1 power rankings; The first meeting on Sept. 14 resulted in a 1-1 draw.
Friday, No. 17 Holliston (11-0-1) at Hopkinton (10-3-1), 3:45 pm — No. 17 Holliston has scored 43 goals and allowed four this season. On Sept. 13, the first match ended in a 2-2 tie.
Correspondent Chris Williams contributed to this story.