Fog rose from the field at Todd Beamer High School as coach Joel Lindberg circled the boys soccer team after practice, just as the sun was coming out.
It seemed metaphoric for the Titans’ season, which has also brightened late. They sit atop the 4A NPSL Olympic with an 10-1-1 league record, having won their last six.
The success is a nice surprise considering the wholesale roster turnover from last year. Twelve players from last season’s team either graduated or simply didn’t try out.
Lindberg wasn’t fazed. He summed up his team’s strength with one word:
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“Camaraderie,” Lindberg said.
“These guys are good friends, and they play together.”
Two additions from the Crossfire Premier club have been helpful, too. Junior midfielder JJ Allen tried out for Beamer this year instead of continuing with Crossfire. Zak Gregg did the same, having recently switched from Crossfire to Washington Premier.
“I just wanted to play for my school one year at least and represent Todd Beamer well,” Allen said. “I’ve enjoyed playing with these players here. Our team is doing really well and hopefully we can win state.”
Lindberg has been impressed with what each player contributes.
“(JJ) is a huge spark for us in the middle,” Lindberg said. “He’s scoring goals and getting assists and covering the field. He’s a box-to-box midfielder.
“Zak has stepped up his game from last year and is creating so much out on the field.”
Soccer has become as much of a club sport as an interscholastic one — especially with some players being torn between either competing with academy teams or their high school team. But Gregg saw an opportunity with Beamer’s squad.
“I wasn’t playing too much for Crossfire, and high school soccer is a lot of fun,” Zak said. “I wanted to come back and play for fun.”
It allowed him to play with his brother, Luke, who is a senior defender.
“He’s obviously the best brother at soccer in the family,” Luke said. “He has a lot of skill.”
But getting talented players together is one thing. Getting them to learn each others tendencies and building a cohesive unit is another.
“I think the team’s adapted really well,” Luke said. “I didn’t think we’d be as close as a team as we are, but we’re really close.”
Lindberg praised the leadership from the team captains, including senior midfielder Austin Stafford and Dylan Alley, who was Beamer’s only returning all-league selection from last year. Alley also was Beamer’s kicker on the football team.
“I think it all started just with little kickarounds before the season started, just building camaraderie and just fitting as a team,” Stafford said. “I think Coach Lindberg has done a great job.”
The chemistry-building formula is simple: Team dinners, video games and, more food.
“Before every game, we have a team dinner and that just brings us together,” Stafford said. “You got FIFA, pizza … well, we try to eat healthy at these dinners, but it tends not to be too much like that.”
But you can’t argue with the results.
Last year, Beamer missed the district playoffs. Now the Titans are in the thick of a league-title chase, just a few points ahead of Auburn Riverside (8-1-4 in 4A NPSL Olympic) and Auburn Mountainview (9-2-2) with games against each looming.
They have away matches this week at Auburn Riverside on Tuesday and at Auburn Mountainview on Friday. The Titans’ lone loss so far was 2-1 in the third match of the season against Decatur and they tied Auburn Riverside, 0-0, on March 28.
Chase Hutchinson: 253-597-8680