Ask Mikah Patil about the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys soccer team and you’ll get a pretty succinct, honest appraisal.
“Some days we play really good and some days we totally suck,” the junior midfielder said before the Bulldogs’ 2-1 loss to St. Edward last week. “We definitely have the talent, but we need to play more together as team.”
When Patil mentions playing more together as a team, he means that on a couple of levels. The Bulldogs must develop better team chemistry and the team (literally) needs to play more games together.
RBHS coach Danny Makaric often starts seven or eight sophomores in the lineup. It’s apparent while the team has some talented players, they’re green and adjusting to the varsity game.
The Bulldogs’ transitional phase has yielded uneven results. RBHS (3-7-3, 0-4 Metro Suburban West) recorded very impressive wins against Oak Park and River Forest and Brother Rice in nonconference action and was 3-3-2 at one point, but the team has struggled mightily within league play.
Typically, the Bulldogs under Makaric take their lumps in nonconference games against bigger schools and make their run within the Metro Suburban. That’s not the case this fall.
“I’m not that surprised how things have gone for us,” Makaric said. We’ve been up and down, but that’s normal when you start so many sophomores. Other than Wheaton Academy [an 8-1 loss], nobody has really beaten us in terms of purely technical soccer. I’m pleased with that.
“This is the best team I’ve coached in terms of technical soccer skills, but we’re young and have no size. Experienced, physical teams give us problems. We’re preparing this team not only for this season but the next couple of years.”
While Patil is one of the Bulldogs’ top playmakers offensively, the group of promising sophomores includes midfielders Nathan Juarez, Dimitriy Aieta, Jacob Douglas, Luis Cardenas, defenders Dimitri Vasiliadis and Peter Ferguson, along with forward George McManus and goalkeeper Matthew Piliweski. They all came up together through Chicago Inter Soccer Club, which was founded by Makaric.
“The game is a lot quicker and guys are stronger at the varsity level,” said Aieta, whose brother Joe is a former RBHS soccer star now attending Arizona State. “We’re a good team, but we also have a lot of room for improvement. I think we’re going to be better next year, but we’re done pretty well for this team.”
While the youth movement is in full effect for RBHS, winning remains a priority every season. After all, the Bulldogs do have six seniors, who have a rapidly closing window to go out a winner. Junior forward Jamez Kaczmarczyk and junior defense Cooper Lesniak are other experienced contributors. The team even has an identity as an attacking style club.
“[Senior midfielder] Alex Chavez and I talk all the time about how we can best run this team when we’re on the field,” said RBHS captain/senior sweeper Sotero Barraza. “It’s an adjustment with so many young players, but we’re capable of playing at a high level. Record aside, I feel like we’re improving. Of course, every team is going to have some down moments but we’re starting to become a solid team.”Makaric is also encouraged by the fact the Bulldogs possess not one but two solid goalkeepers in rangy junior Jonathan Castro and Piliweski.
“Goalkeeping is not a problem,” Makaric said. “We have some good ones now and have a tradition of good goalkeepers. I like our team. We just have to gain more experience and let our players develop physically and mentally.”