The Chelsea High drew a familiar foe for its first game of the playoffs. The eighth seeded Red Devils were paired against ninth seeded Somerville High in what would become the third meeting of the year between the two teams. Chelsea has had little luck against Somerville in their first two go-arounds this season, losing 6-1 and 3-0 to account for two of Chelsea’s three losses on the season.
The Red Devils came closer to beating Somerville than they had in either of the previous two games, but were eliminated from the tournament by virtue of a 3-1 loss.
The game was scoreless until 20 minutes remained in the first half. It was then that Chelsea sophomore captain Carlos Martinez took the ball down the right side of the field and booted it just inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.
From there, Chelsea did its best to make the lone goal stand. The team played with two forwards and five defenders to crowd the offensive zone for Somerville. Donne Agogo – one of the team’s best midfielders – was pulled back as the extra defender and was charged primarily with the task of shadowing Somerville’s top forward.
For a while, the strategy work. The Somerville offense was confused and disrupted, and Chelsea still had its 1-0 lead with nearly 40 minutes gone in the second half. However, the relentless effort on defense began to tire the Red Devils late in the second half, and Somerville was able to sneak through with the tying goal with 20 minutes left in the game.
The goal energized Somerville and left the Red Devils somewhat deflated. Things began to deteriorate as the Chelsea defense continued to tire. Somerville scored again to take the lead only minutes later, and struck again for an insurance goal shortly after that.
“They held their own for a while, but they just ran out of gas,” said Chelsea assistant coach Evan Protasowicki. “There were a couple of guys cramping up, and once [Somerville] got they equalizer it really lit a fire under them. It was a tough loss, but definitely a good game.”
Chelsea ends its season with a record of 12-4-2. Protasowicki expressed optimism that the young team can take another step forward and be even stronger next year, but the Red Devils will have to find ways to make up for the loss of its five seniors.
Among the departing seniors: goalkeeper Norliss Torres, who was named this year’s Commonwealth Athletic Conference MVP; all-star defenseman Diego Reyes; co-captain Ricardo Amaya, who made the all-star team despite playing through an injury for much of the year; John-Carlo Vega, a versatile athlete who played forward, midfielder, defender and even back-up goalkeeper for the Red Devils this year, and Edward Gomez, a solid defender who has earned respect from his players and teammates for his strong work ethic.
Chelsea is hoping that young players, like current freshman Kevin Marroquin and sophomore Yanquel DaSilva (who made the all-star team this year) will continue to develop and form the cornerstones of another quality group of defenders in the years to come. With several players expected to return on offense, including Elvin Merino, who made the all-star team and led Chelsea with 19 goals this year, the Red Devils are confident that they can once again field one of the most effective scoring units in the league.
“I think we could have one of the best midfields in the league, and one of the best offenses in general,” said Protasowicki. “We need to piece together a couple of guys and have some people step up on defense. I think we will be very strong.”