Boys soccer preview: Eagles look to have bounce-back season

Federal Way Eagles

2016 record: 5-8-3

Key losses: Cooper Hutchins (GK), Jonathan Lopez (D), Joe Griffin (MF)

Key returners: Jonathan Esparza, Alex Verdusco (MF), Connor Wells (F)

Coach: Jason Baumgardt

The Federal Way Eagles are looking to bounce back after their second consecutive sub-.500 season. The Eagles aren’t far removed from their impressive 12-3-2 season from 2014, but it will be a challenge for Federal Way to have a season like that in 2017 with the new North Puget Sound League in place. The Eagles were plagued with injuries early in 2016, which immediately stunted any progress from the season before, and they came out of the gate 0-5-1. Federal Way responded by winning five of its last nine games, though. Eagles coach Jason Bumgardt said the injuries, mixed with youth, forced the Eagles to miss postseason play last year. The 2017 season looks bright for Federal Way, however. Bumgardt said he’s seen his veterans already training for the upcoming season, and the Eagles had 64 players show up to its preseason meeting. Bumgardt said it was the largest turnout in the program’s history. Federal Way has roughly nine upperclassmen returning. The Eagles’ seasons starts March 11 at Stadium, and the Eagles make their home debut on March 15 against Newport.

Quotable: “I think we can definitely compete this year, and I think we, this team, can be within the top two or three, May 1,” Bumgardt said. “If they come out and remember the last four games of last year. How they competed, how they played. Let the game come to them.”

Thomas Jefferson Raiders

2016 record: 8-5-3

Key losses: Quinn Landrud (D), Garrett Dahl (MF, F), Justin Yoon (MF, F)

Key returners: Rolando Torres (MF, D), Jose Ramirez (MF), Diego Pineda-Topete (F)

Coach: Dave Hanson

The Thomas Jefferson Raiders look to be strong favorites to compete for a top spot in the North Puget Sound League along with Kentwood and Mount Rainier again in 2017. The Raiders appeared to be the favorites in 2016 after dismantling Bethel 10-0 in the season opener, but Jefferson went just 1-2-2 over its next five games. Aside from the opener, the Raiders’ best performance of the season came during its 8-1 win over Kentlake April 15. Despite the up-and-down season, Jefferson earned a playoff berth against a familiar face, the Tahoma Bears. The Raiders faced Tahoma once in the regular season and beat the Bears 2-1. Jefferson lost the playoff to Tahoma, 2-0, however. The Raiders have a lot of veterans returning in 2017. Jefferson starts the new season with a long homestand. It leads off the season March 17 against Auburn. The Raiders then welcome in Mead on March 18 and Federal Way on March 21.

Todd Beamer Titans

2016 record: 5-6-4

Key losses: Christian Guzman (M), Cameron Quinn (D), Hunter Colvin (F)

Key returners: Dylan Alley (D, MF), Austin Stafford (M), Luke Gregg (D)

Coach: Joel Lindberg

The Todd Beamer Titans also had an up-and-down season a year ago. Beamer finished toward the top of the league in goals with 18, but it was near the bottom in goals allowed with 19. That should change in 2017, as the Titans field a defensive back-four primarily comprised of juniors and seniors after losing nine seniors a year ago. Beamer’s best performance of 2016 came mid-season, a 4-0 win against Kentlake. On the flip side, its struggling back-four allowed two clean sheets against. The Titans will start 2017 on the road. They open the season March 14 at Tahoma and March 17 at Federal Way. Beamer will open its home season on March 21 against Decatur.

Quotable: “There’s a new league, so there’s a lot of unknowns,” Beamer coach Joel Lindberg said. “With almost a brand-new team coming in, I’m excited about the opportunity to start fresh with some talented pieces in place.”

Decatur Golden Gators

2016 record: 2-12-3

Key losses: Jeff Allen, Gavin Garcia, Jose Martinez

Key returners: Mario Cruz, Sergio Vera, Marcos Santos

Coach: Brad Plemons

After an impressive 13-win season in 2015, the Decatur Golden Gators struggled last season. Decatur’s two wins came against Mount Rainier, a 1-0 win, and a 2-1 win over Kentlake. The Gators were shut out seven times in 2016. In 2017, the Golden Gators should have an even mix of veterans and underclassmen. Decatur starts the season on a three-game road trip, first on March 14 at Kentlake. It then travels to Auburn Mountainview and Todd Beamer on March 17 and March 21, respectively. The Gators make their home debut March 24 against Federal Way.

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