The modern game of soccer is fast-paced, filled with skilled athletes from end line to end line. As the game evolves, so too has the position of goalkeeper. Keepers are now asked to help control possession, pass with their hands and feet, and ignite the offense.
“The goalkeeper in high school soccer is no longer a goalie, they are a soccer player,” said Newton North coach Roy Dow, who now views his goalie as the 11th field player, a stark contrast from his first season in 2010.
“In the last decade, goalies have gained so much more foot skill. There’s more and more specialization in soccer. They are spending more time on technique, working on their feet in the offseason, and playing year-round.”
At North, Dow has a skilled keeper in senior Henry Baker, who was a catalyst during the Tigers’ run to the Division 1 state final last fall. Baker played midfield at the youth level, so when he moved to the net full-time in high school, his foot skills were already in place.
The Tigers often pass the ball back to Baker, who has the ability to direct counter attacks with precision passing, supplying an enhanced level of ball-control to his team.
He is not alone.
Nate Morris (Archbishop Williams), Yianni Andrikopoulos (St. John’s Prep), and Owen Tahnk (Newburyport) are all keepers who embrace the side of goalkeeping outside of just shot-saving.
“During the modern game it’s become more pivotal to play out of the back,” said Andrikopoulos. “If my defenders are struggling, I want to be there for them to get the ball up and out or switch fields. I always want to be that option for them.”
Andrikopoulos said his coaches at Pro Project in Woburn emphasize foot skills, telling keepers it’s a vital component to becoming a more complete player. In workouts, he plays in small-sized field games where players are taught to anticipate passes in a fast-paced environment.
The senior from Reading believes the work has made him a more confident and well-rounded goalie. A transfer from Austin Prep, he has blossomed this fall for top-ranked Prep, allowing three goals in six games, with three clean sheets.
At Archbishop Williams, Morris is a captain for a team that starts eight underclassmen. The four-year starter has recorded six shutouts during a 6-1 start, and does everything from making big saves, organizing the defense, and distributing to teammates.
“When Nate has the ball we don’t just clear the ball up the field for a 50-50 ball,” said ABW coach Brian Mitchell. “We want to be able to move up the field in a dangerous attacking zone. Him being good with his feet and distributing with his punt and throws are huge for us with a younger team.”
Morris compares passing the ball as a goalie to driving a car. He tries to pick out a spot and rely on teammates to converge at the right time. The process requires quick-thinking and instinct.
To prepare, Morris watches film of Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer, one of the top distributing goalies. Becoming a better passer was on the top of his to-do list for his senior season.
“We’re a very young team and that’s helped me gain confidence and do better as a goalkeeper,” said Morris. “I knew I had to get better at distributing the ball and becoming better all around.”
Newburyport, off to a 7-0 start, has a different type of distributor in net. Tahnk is a star pitcher on the Clippers’ baseball team last spring and committed to Harvard in August.
With a powerful arm, the 6-foot-3-inch keeper unleashes long throws from the goalie box, which sets up Newburyport in strong attacking positions. The Clippers have already scored twice this season on throws by Tahnk, giving coach Shawn Bleau an edge.
“We’re already a step ahead of the other team with Owen, it’s such a huge luxury,” said Bleau. “He throws it 30 yards in the air and the baseball ability definitely helps with that technique.”
All four teams are relying on their goalies to not only save shots, but use their skills to enhance those around them.
“We have the talent to win a state championship and when you put someone like Owen in net it only solidifies that,” said Bleau. “Having a complete goalkeeper is so big.”
▪ Concord-Carlisle coach Ray Pavlik Sr. gave his son a hug and told him he was proud of him. Moments before, senior captain Decco Siefer found his best friend, Ray Pavlik Jr., on the other end of a looping corner kick. Pavlik Jr. delicately lifted it into the far upper corner before the two met at the corner flag in celebration.
The younger Pavlik added the second goal for the 10th-ranked Patriots (4-1-2) to propel the hosts to a 2-0 Dual County League win over Lincoln-Sudbury in the 16th Annual Kicks for Cancer game Saturday.
“I stopped being a coach and was a dad for a little bit there,” said Pavlik Sr. “It was pretty special. He’s been to all 16 kicks for cancer games since he was a toddler.”
The Kicks for Cancer weekend raises money for ovarian cancer research, with proceeds going to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Over $6,000 was raised this year, and all-time fundraising is approaching $2 million, according to Pavlik Sr. After 10 hours of games on Saturday, more than 1,000 fans packed the hill at Concord-Carlisle high school to cheer on the Patriots.
Athletes don shirts for the event with the name of a loved one on the back. The event originated after the passing of assistant coach Steve Wells’ mother, Lois, and continued to gain momentum following the passing of Pavlik Sr.’s close friend, Jenna Swaim.
“It’s incredible,” said Pavlik Sr. “To sit and say, ‘It started as an expression of love to help someone that was grieving.’ It was a powerful seed for this to grow from. You walk through the town, everyone is in pink and it’s grown into other towns picking it up and becoming part of their community as well. It’s pretty special.”
▪ League representatives and coaches are ask to forward weekly updates for conference/league statistics (goals/assists/points, and top goalies) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday at noon each week.
Games to watch
Tuesday, No. 8 Nauset at Barnstable, 4:30 p.m. –– Standout senior Nate Watring (11 goals) leads the undefeated Warriors into a clash with a formidable Red Hawks squad (5-0-1) for Cape & Islands League supremacy.
Tuesday, No. 13 Newburyport at North Reading, 4:45 p.m. –– A key Cape Ann League Kinney Division showdown takes place as the unbeaten Clippers test their plus-21 goal differential against the explosive Hornets offense (17 goals).
Wednesday, No. 9 Wayland at No. 10 Concord-Carlisle, 4:30 p.m. –– Both the Warriors and Patriots are undefeated in Dual County League play leading up to this important match.
Thursday, No. 11 Weymouth at No. 2 Needham, 4 p.m. –– The top two teams in the Bay State Conference’s Herget Division face off, with both entering unbeaten in league play.
Saturday, No. 15 Newton South at No. 2 Needham, 6 p.m. –– The Lions enter the nonleague contest without a loss, having only been scored on twice all season.
Correspondent Cam Kerry contributed to this story.