Manistee boys soccer will be young but skilled in 2018

Manistee’s Ben Doolittle heads the ball during the first day of practice for the 2018 boys soccer season on Wednesday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee’s Ben Doolittle heads the ball during the first day of practice for the 2018 boys soccer season on Wednesday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — On the first day of practice for the 2018 high-school boys soccer season on Wednesday, Manistee head coach Brandon Prince said that he saw both quantity and quality.

Prince said that the first thing on the agenda is to sharpen his team’s ball skills.

“I want to get the cobwebs out,” Prince said. “Get the touches back on the ball, get comfortable. For the older guys, just get the touch back. We’ve done some pretty extensive conditioning, so the guys who are here are in shape.”

There are not many of those older guys, as Manistee will field a very young squad in 2018, with 15 incoming freshmen, which will be nearly half of the players in the program.

“We’re seeing if there are any hidden gems in the bunch,” Prince said. “Every job is up for grabs, nobody is promised anything. We have some very skilled players returning, and their jobs are not promised. We’re not sure who is who yet.”

Prince said that pure effort will determine each player’s playing time. The Lakes-8 Activities Conference is a very tough soccer league, and Manistee will look to defend and then quickly counterattack in many of their games, which takes stamina and athleticism.

“Playing some of the difficult teams we lay, it’s got to be a quick turn and counter,” Prince said. “One of the things you hope for and sometimes find is a high (soccer) IQ, the natural ability to see the game and read the game. Those are the types of things we’re looking for.”

That type of tactical awareness has long been elusive in American soccer, although with the explosion of popularity of the sport here and the abundance of top-level soccer available on American television, things are getting better in the soccer IQ department.

Prince said that he has seen individual soccer savvy increase in his time as a varsity coach, but is still waiting for that understanding of overall tactics and strategy to appear in his local players.

“You see a player understand a ball move, a specific run, turn, things like that,” he said. “Do I see it position-oriented? No. Messi and Ronaldo ruined it for everybody. But kids are more interested, and soon they will start to look off the ball and see what’s going on around them.”

Manistee will start their season on the road, at Maple City Glen Lake on Friday, Aug. 24.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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