by Andrew Garda

As Montclair High School boys soccer head coach Toure Weaver looks out onto his team scrimmaging, he can barely contain his enthusiasm.

“This year is pretty exciting because we have talent all over the field,” Weaver said. “I know our midfield is going to be really strong, and our back line has some really good players. And up top we have some goal scorers. It’s hard to say [where the strength is] because I think we are really a well rounded team this year.”

The 2017 Mounties are a young team, having graduated several players last year, but Weaver says the talent this year will definitely fill the void.

“We lost some seniors but the class that’s coming up is a really mature group,” Weaver said. “They’ve really done a good job of bringing the different team members together and making it a community of guys.”

When asked who he expects to step up, Weaver quickly ticks off three players he thinks will be big parts of any success the team has.

“Phillip Cubeddu, a guy who is super technical, and works really hard. I think he’s going to create a lot of trouble for other teams this year. Reece Bordick is a captain and he’s the guy in the middle of the park who makes things go. And Chris Masur has had varsity minutes ever since he was a freshman. [He] reads the game really well, is a smart player, tough and technical.”

In the net, Weaver can rely on two very good goaltenders.

“We have two super-confident goaltenders — Rowan O’Brien, a captain and a senior, and a junior, Ben Middlemiss. Both are good in the air, command their box, and are good at shot saving. So you have two quality players right there.”

Weaver also has some international experience to draw on as well, in rising junior Salvador Pliego. When not taking the field for MHS, Pliego plays with the U16 Mexican National team. That international experience, Weaver believes, will be an asset not just in games, but in practices as well.

“[Pliego] seeing the intensity that professional players are practicing with and knowing what it takes to just practice like that is going to be a huge benefit for the group,” Weaver said. The coach hopes Pliego’s intensity will be infectious.

It might be, as Weaver says this team has come ready to work from day one.

“These guys came in this year wanting to work. Just hungry for it. Sometimes with teams you have to get into them to do that, and these guys want that. And that’s been nice to see.”

That drive seems to come from getting a taste of success — and failure — in tournaments last season.

“Last year we made it to the semifinals against Seton Hall and it was a little bit like we were deer in the headlights. They got to experience it and now they know that each round of the states, each round of the counties, it gets a little more intense with a little more stake on the line, but these guys realize that now and that the moment won’t get too big for them.”

Weaver also said he sees a close bond already developing among the players and that tightness will help them overcome obstacles that can crop up during any season.

“For me, this is a real team,” Weaver said. “These guys love being with each other. When you have that it helps so much to get through tough times in games, tough times during the season. When guys are supporting each other and wanting each other to do well, I think that makes a huge difference. This year I think these guys have a little bit of grit to them. I think that when they get into these big moments, they’re gonna shine.”

It’s still a little early in the preseason and Weaver is still working out how different players fit on the field.

“Right now we’re still feeling out different positions for different guys,” Weaver said. “And also we’re trying different formations, because the talent we have on this team, I think we’re going to be able to do different things this year than we’ve done in the past.”

There are so many players able to do so many things, it’s taking a little time to figure out how the pieces to the puzzle all fit.

“We’re probably the deepest I can ever remember us being in terms of the quality of starters and also reserve guys on the bench,” Weaver said. “This team can do a lot. I’m really excited and I think we’re a little under the radar, which is good, but I think we’re going to make some noise this year.”