TJ SOccer

Thomas Johnson’s Carson Grove takes a shot on goal as Manchester Valley’s Connor Fritz defends in the first half Saturday afternoon at Frederick High School. View and purchase sports photos at www.fnpinfocus.com.

After his team played Manchester Valley Saturday at Frederick, Thomas Johnson coach Jim Reigel was told one of his players, Sean Weiland, was listed as a defender on the Patriots' roster.

"You can go ahead and put him as a midfielder," Reigel said after TJ beat Manchester Valley 3-1 to win the six-team Central Maryland Soccer Showdown. "I'm going to try and fix that."

Technically, Reigel wasn't entirely wrong.

Normally a defensive center midfielder, Weiland has played several different positions over TJ's first two games, including outside midfielder, attacking center midfielder and center back.

Whenever TJ possesses the ball, Weiland can be seen pushing forward and trying to find ways to deliver passes upfield.

With the Patriots (2-0) and Mavericks (1-1) locked in a 1-1 tie, Weiland threaded a pass to the left flank and onto the feet of forward Galo Cappelletti, who had gotten behind Manchester Valley's back line in the 47th minute. While Mavericks keeper Daniel Sanders alertly came off his line to snuff out the opportunity, the scoring chance seemed to get the Patriots on track.

"The first half didn't go so well for us, but in the second half we were attacking them a lot, and eventually it broke, and we got two goals," said TJ forward Carson Grove, who scored a go-ahead goal on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute before tacking on an insurance goal off a rebound in the 68th.

But Reigel particularly likes Weiland's commitment to defense. When opponents have the ball, he can be seen dropping back and giving help to his fellow defenders. And when center back Ryan Barkdoll needed a breather on Saturday, Weiland happily stepped in for him.

"I definitely want us to hone in on the defensive piece and work as hard as we can to keep clean sheets and limit our opponents' easy opportunities," Reigel said. "His tenaciousness in that role helps kind of clog up that middle a little bit and free our center backs from having to do some of that [defensive] responsibility."

Then there's the willingness to play different positions, which Reigel has asked of several of his players this season.

Grove has played forward, attacking center midfielder and wing so far this season, while Luis Aguilar, Pablo Mora, Mack McKeever and Melvin Lopez have also bounced around the field.

"I just go wherever I’m needed to help out the team for the best," Weiland said.

Weiland and others have moved around so much partly because the Patriots have three new faces in juniors Cappelletti, Marcos Ortiz and Abdoulaye Seck. All of them are receiving a considerable amount of playing time.

On Friday, Seck scored a goal, and Cappelletti added an assist in a 5-1 win over Century.

“Marcos is really strong in the back, Abdoulaye controls the midfield, and Galo just controls the top line — he feels so comfortable up there," Weiland said.

Hector Alvarez scored off an assist from Grove in the 36th minute to open the scoring in Saturday's game before the Mavericks answered just before halftime, with Connor D'Agati heading in a free kick from Jack Metz.

Andrew Harrell, a 2004 Middletown graduate, enters his fourth season as Manchester Valley's coach. The Mavericks graduated 12 seniors, including nine starters, from a solid team that earned the top seed in last year's Class 3A West Section I playoffs before bowing out in the section semifinals.

"We're trying to find our identity, but I'm proud of our effort," Harrell said.

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