Unhappy with his team’s performance during the first half of Monday’s season opener at West Potomac, Mount Vernon head boys soccer coach Robert Garza let loose with some sideline sarcasm.
"There’s a great game going here!" Garza shouted at the Majors. "Any time you guys want to show up and play, let me know!"
It took Mount Vernon nearly the entire first half to find its groove. But once sophomore forward Simond Kargbo’s goal broke a scoreless tie with less than one minute remaining until halftime, the Majors were nearly unstoppable.
Mount Vernon scored three second-half goals and cruised to a 4-1 win over its Route 1 rival. Kargbo scored twice for the Majors, and Erik Rodriguez and Damaro Dacosta each added one goal.
"We didn’t start off good," Kargbo said. "But toward the end of the first half, we actually picked it up. Thanks to our coach yelling at us, we did good."
Winning its opener was a positive start for a Mount Vernon team that expects to contend for the National District title in 2011. The Majors lost to Stuart in the district semifinals last year, but went on to upset Langley in overtime during the opening round of regionals before suffering an overtime defeat against Robinson in the quarterfinals. The Majors return several key players from a team that finished 11-4-2, including first-team all-region goalkeeper Lucas Belanger, and are confident in their abilities.
"The guys, they understand the pressure’s on them, but they’re starting to handle it pretty well," Garza said. "They know what’s ahead of them; they know they have the talent to do this."
Belanger also earned first-team all-district and honorable mention all-state accolades as a freshman. Garza said he has high expectations for Belanger’s second high school season, but the first step was bringing the sophomore back to Earth.
"The biggest thing we wanted to do was make sure we deflated his head," Garza said. "We’re expecting big things out of him. A lot of people have talked about … the sophomore slump. He went away to [goalkeeper] camp this year [and] the coach said he was [bad]. It kind of gave Lucas a wake-up call a little bit. We’re expecting a lot out of him. He’s going to be our team leader this year."
Belanger, a team captain, said Mount Vernon wants to go "all the way" this season, adding last year’s postseason experience helped the Majors realize their capabilities.
"It brought us together as a team last year," he said. "Even though we didn’t win the district tournament, it brought us more together as a team and it showed what we could actually do if we play as a team and not as individuals."
Kargbo, Dacosta, Rodriguez, sophomore midfielders Sergio Luna and Reymi Rodriguez and senior captain Bryan Castellon, a defender, will also play key roles for the Majors. Junior captain Amardo Oakley, a midfielder, is out after breaking his left leg during a preseason scrimmage. The team has carried Oakley’s jersey and a ball with them to games and practices while Oakley has been in the hospital.
One area of concern for Mount Vernon is its lack of size, which the Majors will attempt to overcome in other areas.
"We don’t have height, but we sure have talent and speed on the ground," Kargbo said, "so we’re going to use that to our best advantage."
Mount Vernon will host Lee at 7 p.m. on March 18.