The Langley High boys’ varsity soccer team closed its regular season home schedule in style with a 3-2 Liberty District win over visiting W.T. Woodson last Friday night.
A large, partisan Langley crowd of 1,000 people enjoyed the high-caliber district soccer action.
The unbeaten Saxons (5-0-2) played without key striker Graham Oxley, who was injured the night before in Langley’s 2-1 overtime district triumph over Fairfax.
Oxley was expected to be available to play again soon.
Langley did have the services of Darren Flintcroft, who was back from his D.C. United club team duties.
The Saxons, while not playing their best defensive game of the season, were good enough to defeat the Cavaliers, finishing their home record at a perfect 4-0.
All five of the game’s goals occurred in the first half. Things settled down more in the second half as neither team was able to find the net. But that was all right for the home team, as Langley came away with the hard-fought win.
<b>ALL 10</b> of Langley’s seniors were honored during halftime ceremonies on the `Senior Night.’
"We made sure they all played and most of them started," said Langley first year head coach Bo Amato, of his 12th graders. "It was a great send off for them."
The coach applauded his team’s cohesive offensive play, which led to the three, first half scores.
"We’re not blowing teams away [offensively], but we are putting a lot of pressure on teams’ goalies," said Amato.
Defensively, the Saxons did not play as well as they had in the Fairfax game the night before. Nevertheless, it was good enough to get the win.
Amato, who recently led the select Annandale United boys’ U-18 team to the Virginia Cup title, said his Langley team has come a long way since a sluggish season-opening tie against non-district foe Oakton. The Saxons, going into that early season contest against the Cougars, had gotten no scrimmage games in due to poor weather. And that lack of game-action was apparent in the Oakton game as the Saxons played poorly, according to Amato.
Langley’s other tie game this season came against district opponent Marshall.
In both the Oakton and Marshall deadlocks, Langley allowed late game scores that resulted in the frustrating ties.
Coach Amato is thrilled with how far his team has come over the course of the season’s schedule. While the Saxons have the 10 seniors, the coach said some of them have not played the sport at the club level. He also has three freshmen members, three sophomores and a handful of juniors on the varsity squad. So it has taken a while for the team to come around and mesh with the different experience levels throughout the roster.
But Amato said the team’s greatest strength has been in the fact that it has played more and more as a cohesive group. The squad is not where Amato wants it to be quite yet in that regard, but it is making positive strides.
Perhaps the biggest challenge Amato has faced is building Langley into that cohesive, strong unit in such a short season and time frame.
With his club teams and other squads he has coached, he had more time to work with and mold them into powerhouse units.
"You can’t put a soccer team together in three months," he said.
Maybe so, but Amato appears to be doing just that. And the result is a lot of Langley victories.
The coach said one distinct characteristic of his Annandale U-18 team that won the state Cup title is its ability to play at a higher level than its individual talent level.
"We probably weren’t the best group on the field, but we were really a team," he said. "I think these [Langley] guys are close to that."
<b>AMATO</b>, who has a vast wealth of experience in the sport, has not coached a Northern Region high school team before this year. When he was in the decision-making process as to whether or not he would accept Langley’s offer to run the boys’ team, Amato said he heard negative reports in regards to the school, and was advised not to accept the job.
But with nearly an entire season under his belt as the Saxons’ coach, he said people were wrong. He loves the school, its administrators and the team’s players.
"All I heard was negativity," he said. "`You’ll make a mistake going there.’ It couldn’t be more different. The kids have been great. Their behavior has been great. Most young men need to keep their emotions inside and play well on the field [during stressful game situations]. They’ve done that. My hats off to them.
"I think the people at Langley have been fantastic," said Amato.
This week, Langley was scheduled to play a district road game at Madison on Tuesday. Next week, the Saxons will travel to Jefferson for a May 7 district meeting against the defending state AAA champions,
"They are still defending champions until someone takes it away from them," said Amato, of the Colonials.
After that, Langley will wrap up the regular season with its annual area rival game against district foe McLean.