For the Lexington boys’ soccer team, it’s all about the process.
They’ve started the season 4-1 after Monday’s 3-0 win over Belmont, but they’re more interested in how the sausage gets made. That approach has been instilled by coach Keith Beaty . It’s personified by captains Sancho Maroto , Jaeho Chung , and Knut Lundstrom . And it starts at the very back, with junior keeper Karl Vernet, a transfer from Waltham High who has embraced a crucial leadership role with the Minutemen.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on system of play,” said Sam Boehm , a junior left back. “Obviously we want to win, but we’re focused on playing the right way.
“We’re trying to play soccer the way the professionals play it. Making passes and receiving the ball the correct way. Passing through the team, not aimlessly down the field.”
Beaty, who is in his third year as head coach — and directed the Minutemen to the Division 1 state title in his first season — hesitated to call the 4-1 start “success.” He is set instead on the principles of play he preaches to his team. He implores his players to focus on their “controllables,” not on wins or losses or statistics.
“We have our principles which we follow and those don’t change no matter who we play against,” Beaty said. “We’re aiming to be a triple threat: dominating and controlling while we’re in possession, out of possession and in set pieces. But I know that the game is varied and variables come all the time. That’s part of the process.”
Beaty relishes having multiple off days between games, and uses such periods to delve into “sub principles and sub-sub principles.”
Maroto, a senior captain who led the Middlesex League with 24 goals in 2017, buys into Beaty’s system of methodical ball movement.
“In any game, we try to wear out the other team, making them run around,” Maroto said. “Then after like 20 minutes, we just start to see the gaps around the field and that’s where we get our chances.”
Vernet, the backfield conductor in goal, said it’s hard to explain the mind-set Beaty’s “process” has created.
One definite description: goal-oriented.
“Before every game, we all have a little task that we write in and we hand to our coach,” said Vernet. “So we’re all kind of focused on that goal, but also the one whole goal.”
Boehm said that what Vernet brings to the table is his ability with his feet.
“I think it’s becoming more and more of a needed strength from goalkeepers, being able to play with your feet just as well as any field player would. So if he gets the ball, he has the confidence to distribute it well and to play long balls, as well as short passes. That gives the team a lot of confidence that when we give him the ball he distributes correctly.”
In Vernet’s own estimation, his job includes putting his teammates in the best possible position. He is in the unique place to see everything on the field, and uses it to talk to his defenders and organize the defense. “I’m like a captain, but in the back,” Vernet said.
He can be heard shouting commands to his teammates: “One step,” “Cover,” “Pressure,” “Squeeze,” “Come in.”
But leadership is not limited to the keeper.
“We’re all leaders for our positions,” he said.
Beaty said the team doesn’t have a leadership “head,” but a “spine.” Vernet in goal, Lundstrom in the back, Chung at midfield and Maroto at striker provide solid leadership covering every blade of grass on the field.
Maroto assessed the situation the same way: “We control the whole field with our voices.”
“Knut, Sancho and Jaeho are pushing our team to work hard and establish accountability within the team,” Boehm said. “So we’re not only supporting each other, but we’re also demanding quality from each other, too.”
The Minutemen have ambitious goals for this season — to win a D1 state title.
They’ll have to contend with a strong Middlesex League that sent all of its teams to the MIAA playoffs last year, not to mention a hulking defending champ in Brockton. Maroto feels good about his team, though.
“We all know each other pretty well so we connect with each other. We have a deep bench and our midfield is our strongest thing.”
■ The No. 1 team in the Globe’s Top 20, Brockton is off to a 4-0 start with impressive nonleague wins over Dartmouth and Xaverian. Senior Leonardo Teixeira , who tallied 31 goals and 15 assists last season, scored a hat trick against Dartmouth and then recorded two goals against Xaverian. Last fall, the Boxers went 21-1-2 and captured the Division 1 title, finishing in the top 30 in the topdrawersoccer.com national rankings. They are currently ranked 29th in this week’s rankings.
■ Saugus, which earned its first state tournament berth since 1998 last fall, returns a number of key players from that historic team. The Sachems are 3-2 on the season, securing victories over Lynn Classical, O’Bryant, and Amesbury. Saugus has a potent attacking trio of Ryan Pugh (6 goals, 1 assist), Jhonnatta Almedia (4 goals), and 2017 Globe All-Scholastic honoree Jonathan Rodrigues (1 goal, 4 assists). They should be one of the favorites in Division 3 North.
■ St. John’s Prep, the reigning Division 1 North champion, dropped consecutive matches to Xavier (Conn.) and St. John’s Shrewsbury to begin the season. But the Eagles responded with a 2-0 week to improve their record to 3-2. The Eagles graduated quite a bit of talent from last year’s team but received a boost from junior Ethan Ambrush , who tallied two goals in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Catholic Conference rival Xaverian.
“We knew it was going to be physical, but we matched their physicality,” said St. John’s Prep coach Dave Crowell . “They’re always tough.”
The Eagles, now 1-0 in conference play, have won the Catholic Conference seven out of the last eight seasons. They will face Catholic Memorial at home on Saturday.
Players of the Week:
Dominic Craig, Carver — The sophomore tallied four goals in a 7-0 shutout against Abington. The next day, Craig added two more in a 5-1 win over Hull.
Tomas Griffin, Belmont — The senior keeper helped the sixth ranked Marauders (4-0) stay unbeaten, recording blank sheets in Middlesex League wins over Stoneham and Woburn.
Charles Richards, Belmont Hill — The junior striker scored the winning goal with four minutes left in a 2-1 nonleague victory over Phillips Andover.
Avery Santoro, Nauset — In an impressive 6-0 victory for the second-ranked Warriors over Cape rival Monomoy, the senior striker recorded a hat trick.
Francesco Valagussa, Arlington —
The senior netted a second-half hat trick to pace the fifth-ranked Spy Ponders to a 3-2 win over Middlesex League rival Watertown.
Games to Watch:
Tuesday, Mashpee at Carver, 4 p.m. — The upstart Falcons (3-1) will look to contain a prolific Carver attack (4.2 goals per game) in a South Shore Conference matchup.
Tuesday, New Bedford at Brockton, 6 p.m. — The defending Division 1 state championsBoxers (4-0) host the only team that beat them a season ago in a Big 3 showdown under the lights.
Thursday, Winchester at Belmont (4 p.m.) — Another showdown between highly-ranked clubs; one will leave this game with its first loss.
Thursday, Lexington at Arlington, 7 p.m. — Two of the best teams in the Middlesex League, the winner will have the inside track to the Freedom Division title.
Saturday, Winchester at Needham, 4 p.m. — After scoring two huge Middlesex League wins over Lexington and Watertown, the Sachems (3-0) will face a solid Needham squad in an important nonleague match.
Matt Doherty also contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Charlie Wolfson can be reached at email@example.com.