WOBURN — Since schools closed down in March during the onset of the coronavirus, it has been a long wait to see if there would actually be a soccer season for the Woburn High boys team in 2020.
The rules have been altered, and the season has been shortened, even the training schedule has been cut down to three sessions a week, but there will be a 10-game season against exclusively Middlesex League Liberty teams, beginning this weekend.
“The team is very happy that we’re able to play the season; they would play with one leg tied behind their backs, if need be,” said Woburn coach, Roy Gomes, in his second season as the head coach. “We have a great group of kids that love the game and will work hard for each other and the program.”
The rule alterations include no heading the ball, no throw-ins, no corner kicks, no deliberate body contact with another player. Goalies cannot send the ball past midfield on the fly, whether by kick, punt or toss. Throw-ins and corners are now indirect kicks. There are more changes, including games being played in quarters, and the complete list can be found on the MIAA website.
“Even with the new COVID rules and restrictions to our game, I anticipate everyone adapting quickly, and teams playing some great, entertaining soccer again, this season,” said Gomes. “Our hope this year is to stay healthy and be competitive in every game and to win a very tough league, filled with excellent soccer towns.”
While some teams in the league focus on defense, which could hurt them, with the restrictions, Woburn is a team that could actually move up because of its speed, quick pace of play and finishing touches.
The Tanners will be looking for great leadership from senior captains Aidan Brennan, Jared Roque, Cam Irving and Matt Wackrow. Irving will start in the midfield while the other three will be part of a talented and experienced defense.
“They had a great summer doing the captains’ fitness program, with many players participating and working hard on their game,” said Gomes. “We have a talented squad with a good, smart players, all around.”
The back four will be led by Brennan and Roque at center back, with Matt Wackrow at one outside slot, and the other one up for grabs among a great group of defenders. They include seniors Domenik Faria, Elias Dreik, and first-year senior Carlos Dias. Junior Chris Araújo, first-year junior Mohammed Mrabet, and second-year sophomore Rocco Gomes.
The midfield is filled with quality returning players, including Irving, juniors Mateus Donascimento, Gabriel DaSilva, Will Comeiro, Ethan Mugwanya, Matthew Oliveira, and Felipe Lima, along with first-year varsity players Diogo Malmonge, a sophomore, Joao Oliveira, a senior, and Gabe Pinto, a junior.
The Tanner strikers have the speed and technical skills to score many goals this season. Sophomore Kauan Gomes is back to cause havoc on defenses, along with first- year sophomore Tobias Petrakoski and freshman Matthew Balleani.
Last, but not least, Woburn has Bryan Santos, a first-year junior, as its varsity keeper. “Big Bryan” has worked extremely hard this summer, and it has paid off, according to Roy Gomes, who calls Santos “a beast” in goal.
“The boys can’t wait to play other towns,” said Gomes. “COVID rules haven’t allowed any teams to scrimmage each other this preseason, so they’re ready for the season to kickoff.”
Assistant coaches Nuno Roque and Billy Comeiro will be helping Gomes to push the boys to be their best, again this season.
“Covid has made it challenging for sure,” said Gomes. “Playing and running while wearing masks is tough, to say the least, but the boys are playing and working hard and not complaining.”
Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.) could see some quality soccer when Woburn opens up its abbreviated season against Arlington, at Peirce Field. The teams meet again, the following Saturday (9 a.m.) at Woburn.