Self-effacing Capital phenom likes team

Nigel El-Sokkary, only a sophomore, leads Cougars’ offense in state tournament

Contributing writerMay 30, 2014 

As they have gone about advancing farther in the state boys soccer tournament than they have in four years, the Capital High School Cougars have evolved from an offensive powerhouse into a stingy defensive club.

Fortunately for Capital, which meets Sedro-Woolley in the Class 2A state semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at Sumner’s Sunset Chev Stadium, the pieces to score and stop have been in place all season.

Jakob Racimo, the 2A Evergreen Conference’s defensive MVP, was in goal for a pair of 1-0 victories over Anacortes and Kingston in the opening rounds of state.

The Cougars also can turn to sophomore Nigel El-Sokkary, the EvCo offensive MVP, who has found the net 21 times this season and recorded 18 assists.

“I’ve scored a lot of goals, but I’m just the guy putting the ball into the net,” says El-Sokkary, something of a lifelong phenom who played U11 for Black Hills Football Club as a 7-year old.

“There’s always chemistry behind the play. This team is amazing. Every one of these boys could be

man of the match on a given day.”

Capital coach Andrew Lopez points to El-Sokkary’s willingness to blend into the team as the key to his startling offensive numbers.

“Nigel does a great job of not being the central figure,” Lopez said. “He likes to play outside where he can work one-on-one against a defender. He’s a very intelligent player and knows when to shoot and when to pass.”

El-Sokkary’s vision helps him use that intelligence. Asked to name a favorite target of his passes, he listed a half-dozen teammates.

An intriguing background helps account for El-Sokkary’s high soccer IQ. Although he was born in Olympia and his father was a wrestler in his native Egypt, his maternal grandfather is soccer royalty: the Welsh international Mike England, who became a legend with the original Seattle Sounders of the old North American Soccer League after playing with Blackburn, Tottenham and Cardiff City in the English Premier League. He also managed the Welsh national team for eight years.

“He comes over from Wales maybe once a year and sees me play. We talk a lot about the Premier League, and he gives me tips on how I can improve,” says El-Sokkary, who hopes to play professional soccer but is focused on the present as Capital heads into the state final four.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we can win state,” he said. “This is our best squad counting this year, last year, the year before that, maybe even next year. We have so many strong players.”

Perhaps because he has always played with older kids, El-Sokkary has an appreciation for the seniors making their final run at a state title.

“Daniel Pailthorp is a brick wall. He’s an amazing asset, understands the game, knows how to organize our team and motivate us,” he said.

Lopez calls Pailthorp “the spine of our team.”

“Aiden Klemmer (who scored Capital’s goal in the win over Anacortes) sees the field and knows where the ball needs to go. He’s well-rounded and can help on offense or defense. With Jakob, you can see from his performance how much he wants this. He didn’t play last year because he was devoted to football, so this year means a lot to him. He’s great at positioning and tactics; works really well with our back line.”

Capital boasts a defense that hasn’t given up a goal thus far in the state tourney, a sensational sophomore scorer and the chemistry to bring the two elements together. Lopez praises his team for one more quality: devotion to its goals.

“There was a ‘Senior Skip Day’ this week, but every one of our seniors went to every period of their classes and came to practice and kept his focus,” Lopez said.

STATE BOYS SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS

Class 4A boys soccer semifinals at Sparks Stadium, Puyallup

Skyview (15-1-2): The Greater St. Helens League champs are in the final four two years removed from their only state title (2012). Forward Carter Johnson (26 goals, six assists) was named the state’s two-time Gatorade player of the year earlier this month.

Ferris (17-2): The Saxons are in the semifinals for the second time since 2010 . Defender Matt Beaulaurier (12 assists) has set up forwards Eric Hollenbaugh (16 goals) and Terry Cox (17 goals) well from the back line. Won 4A title in 1998.

Snohomish (18-2): The Wesco North champions are back in the final four looking to win their first title in eight years (2006). The Panthers are led by Uriel Herrera, who can create (11 assists) scoring chances for teammates – or finish them himself (18 goals).

Kentwood (15-2-3): The SPSL North champions are in the final four for the first time since 2011 (third place). They rely on Brandyn Bangsund (13 goals) and Mason Rudolph (12 goals) for scoring. Goalkeeper Admir Kucalovic (12 shutouts) has been rock solid.

Friday: Skyview vs. Ferris, 6 p.m.; Snohomish vs. Kentwood, 8 p.m.

Saturday: Third-place game, noon.; championship game, 5 p.m.

Class 3A boys soccer semifinals at Sparks Stadium, Puyallup

Mercer Island (11-4-5): The Islanders return to the semifinals for the first time since Bainbridge knocked them off in the state title match, 3-2, in 2012 . Forward Ryan Hill (20 goals) has done his damage around the penalty box while midfielder Sean Bender (10 assists) sets up most of the scoring chances.

Sunnyside (19-2): The Big 9 champions have already made it further than any team in school history. They feature a three-headed attack of Alexander Marin, Christian Chavez and Noe Meza, who have combined for 31 goals this season.

Shorewood (14-3-4): The Thunderbirds are back in the final four for the first time since 1987 with a chance to take home their first state title since 1978. They are balanced in scoring, led by Dylan Collins (10 goals, five assists).

Lakeside (14-2-2): After first-round exits each of the past two years, the Lions are back in the final four for the first time since placing fourth in 2008 . Gaby Joseph (16 goals, nine assists) has been a headache for defenses. Lakeside has reached the state title game three times in school history – but never won.

Friday: Mercer Island vs. Sunnyside, 2 p.m.; Shorewood vs. Lakeside of Seattle, 4 p.m.

Saturday: Third-place game, 10 a.m.; championship game, 2 p.m.

Class 2A boys soccer semifinals at Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner

Squalicum (19-0-2): A high-powered offense revolves around Gabe Guidroz (10 goals) and Christian Chala (10 goals). The 2A Northwest Conference champions have not made it this deep in the playoffs since their run to the title in 2009.

Toppenish (14-5-1): Led by Central Athletic Conference defensive MVP Oliver Sanchez (11 shutouts) in goal, the Wildcats have been hard to score on. Servando Fuentes (20 goals) has carried the offense all season. Third trip to the semifinals in school history.

Capital (20-2): In the 2A semifinals for the first time since 2010, the Cougars have star power up front in forward Nigel El-Sokkary (21 goals, 18 assists), the Evergreen 2A player of the year, and goalkeeper Jakob Racimo (16 shutouts).

Sedro-Woolley (15-4-3): The Cubs come at you from all corners, led Isaac Swenson (13 goals), Kyle Witzel (13 goals) and Nef Camacho (11 goals). Back in the state semifinals for a second consecutive season.

Friday: Squalicum vs. Toppenish, 6 p.m.; Capital vs. Sedro-Woolley, 8 p.m.

Saturday: Third-place game, noon; championship game, 5 p.m.

Class 1A boys soccer semifinals at Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner

Quincy (14-7): It’s not difficult to know which Jackrabbit to key on. It is sophomore forward Francisco Alejandrez, who has tallied a whopping 40 goals this season. Quincy is in the state semifinals for the first time since 2008.

Chelan (15-4-1): Even in a rebuilding year, the defending 1A champs are in position to defend their crown. Freshman Rafael Barajas (13 assists) and senior Ivan Magdaleno (14 goals, nine assists) make the Goats tick in front of goalkeeper Miguel Sanchez (11 shutouts).

University Prep (12-2-2): The Pumas won back-to-back 1A titles in 2004-05, but have not been to the state semifinals since. Jackson Ragen (10 assists) has found ways to get Blaine Thompson (10 goals) and Gabe Rifkin (seven goals) quality scoring chances.

King’s (17-4-1): Riding a 13-match winning streak, the Knights are hoping to add to their second state title after winning six years ago. They feature one of the biggest and most physical backline’s in the state, led by Josh Alexander and Lucas Swanson.

Friday: Quincy (14-7) vs. Chelan (15-4-1), 2 p.m.; University Prep (12-2-2) vs. King’s (17-4-1), 4 p.m.

Saturday: Third-place game, 10 a.m.; championship game, 2 p.m.

State soccer ticket prices: Daily passes are $9 for adults, $7 for students/senior citizens. Tournament passes are $15/$10.

kevin.manning@thenewstribune.com

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