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Squad Depth Leads To Selection Poser For The Lions
Michael Preston | Fri, Jun 2, 2017 9:29 am

Boston City FC’s six-goal hammering of Seacoast United Mariners had been brewing for a few weeks.

The Lions were disappointed with two home draws against New York Cosmos B and Rhode Island Reds when players felt they created enough changes and rattled the woodwork often enough to have taken all three points on both occasions.  Then there was the frustrating home loss to GPS Omens to exit the U.S. Open Cup.

So, the Mariners arrived in Boston last Saturday and met an unbeaten team itching to fire goals as well as claim a first three home points of the season.  Jhonata Batista delivered with a hat-trick, Kevin Herrera produced a brace and Michael Rincon surged forward from his new right back role to complete the rout.

The convincing victory was made even more impressive by the fact the Lions were missing four players who have become key components of the line-up, due to injuries in goalkeeper Vitor Scariot, captain Ronaldo Vieira, defender Gill Desouza and last season’s top scorer Homero Morais.  Here’s a breakdown of how the enforced changes led to a record winning margin in Boston City’s short history and we also consider the selection conundrum facing Coach Palhinha in the coming weeks.

Goalkeeper

Vitor Scariot performed heroics in 2016, saving four penalties during the regular season and two more in the playoff shootout loss to Legacy 76.  The teenager’s arrival between the posts prompted a nine-match unbeaten streak and he won the Ironsides Crew Supporters’ Player of the Year award and was a NPLS all-team selection.  Vitor suffered a groin injury in the U.S. Open Cup win on penalties at Western Mass Pioneers, but soldiered on for two more matches.

Anthony Ferrara has waited patiently, if a little frustrated for his opportunity to take his place in the squad.  The Massachusetts native has played with Seacoast United and spent time with S.C. Farense Academy in Portugal and Vestri in Iceland.  His international ventures meant he was forced to wait for clearance from the U.S. Soccer Federation before pulling on a Lions shirt in last week’s 6-1 win.

The question: Scariot is a proven quantity in goal, Ferrara has impressed when given his opportunity, Malden’s Michael Russ-Penta is eager to step up from the bench and Boston City has also signed experienced Brazilian keeper Alexssandro.  So, who starts in this Sunday’s top of the table clash with Hartford City and leads the Lions into a three-match away stretch?

Defense and holding midfield

Gilly Desouza has been a lock in the right back position since last season, his probing forward runs key to the counter attack, but he missed last week’s win through injury.  Michael Rincon, normally a right winger or wide midfielder, stepped in and impressed.  He won possession in his own half late in the match, sprinted 60 yards as an attacking move progressed and scored a well-deserved goal.

Last season the heart of the Lions defense featured Gabriel De Souza alongside Marcelo Cunha, a pairing disrupted only three times by injuries or suspension.  The midfield was anchored by captain Ronaldo Vieira, who has sat out three matches due to injury and one through suspension.

This season, De Souza has also played as a holding midfielder and on Saturday partnered Jadson Liete in the middle, while Italian Luca Tarable has also taken on that role, as has youngster Filipe Dutra.  Cunha has operated mostly at left back and has been handed the captain’s armband, with offseason signing Paulo Henrique the mainstay at center half.  He was joined for the Seacoast win by fellow defender Gabriel Paganini.  Defender Ralph Angrand has returned from a spell in Spain and is also in the mix.

The question: Does form or a return from injury dictate a starting place and how does coach Palhinha fit eleven players pressing for a spot into six positions?

Attacking midfield

When Homero Morais converted a spot kick in the shootout playoff loss last season, he became the top scorer of Boston City’s inaugural season with seven goals.  A mainstay in one of the attacking midfield roles, he won the ball to spark the first goal of the season against New York Cosmos B and scored on the next match away to New York Athletic Club.  Homero missed the win over Seacoast through injury and Kevin Herrera, whose playing time has gradually increased, scored two goals in the win.  The local Lynn, MA, product also produced a superb cross that leveled the U.S. Open Cup draw at Western Mass and tucked away the match-winning penalty.

Question: With Rincon, Tarable and new signing Camilo Estrada also pushing to start in one of these spots, who gets the nod?  The only certainty appears to be Isaac Nana Addai, who registered four assists on Saturday and was also involved in the other two goals, on the back of scoring a hat-trick against his former Rhode Island Reds teammates.

Forwards

Jhonata Batista is on fire!  The energetic young forward (pictured) claimed a hat-trick against Seacoast United Mariners, adding to solo strikes against NY Cosmos B, Western Mass Pioneers and GPS Omens.  He also found the net in all three preseason matches.  He played in a wider role on Saturday, with Kamali Webson in the line-up as the number nine.

Webson scored four minutes into his Lions debut at New York Athletic Club and netted the all-important equalizer against Western Mass in the U.S. Open Cup.  But a second yellow card in the cup match led to a suspension and he waited to start against Seacoast, playing 68 minutes.  Yaw Addow replaced Webson on Saturday and has been limited to appearances off the bench this season, but still provides a real threat to opposing defenses.

Question: Batista is surely irreplaceable given his current rich vein of form, but there are proven goal scorers waiting eagerly in the wings.  Selection headaches have eased slightly with the release of forwards Joel Lobo and Manuel Louro, who came through the offseason tryouts.

The depth of the Boston City squad means that Coach Palhinha can also call on Leonardo Carvalho, who played at left back against Rhode Island; midfielders Pedro Silva, Leandro Monteiro and Vinicius Dos Santos; forward Pedro Matias, and Jonathan Argueta, who started at right back in the U.S. Open Cup clash with GPS Omens.



 


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