Spotswood boys’ soccer team returning talented lineup

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Spotswood High School’s 2018 boys’ soccer season was complicated.

The Chargers won the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Blue Division with a 6-3-1 league record. But they also finished below .500 overall, at 7-9-3, and lost in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional tournament.

Spotswood’s longtime coach, Jeff Marvinny, summed it up best: “We didn’t play well outside the division.”

With nine starters back for 2019, including four All-GMC Blue Division selections, the Chargers have one clear goal for the upcoming fall: “Be more competitive outside the division,” Marvinny said.

With so much talent back, it’s an achievable goal.

Spotswood will open its 2019 regular season on Sept. 3 at Middlesex High School. Opening tap is scheduled for 4 p.m.

“We hope to compete again in the Blue Division and make a run in the state tournament,” claimed Marvinny.

The Chargers can do both. Their starting lineup is talented, experienced and without a clear weakness.

An All-GMC forward, Chris Moran, scored 16 goals a year ago. The speedy forward is as good without the ball as he is with the ball. He is constantly running himself into passing lanes and scoring positions.

“He’s hard for defenders to track,” Marvinny explained.

Fellow forward Yanni Hatzistefanis complemented Moran last fall, notching 12 assists. They were one of the best scoring duos in central Jersey. Hatzistefanis didn’t quite get as much recognition as Moran in 2018, but he still made the All-GMC Blue Division team.

“Their games complement each other,” Marvinny said. “Yanni is creative with the ball and has good vision with his passing.”

Moran and Hatzistefanis will produce a lot of offense. But center midfielder Luke Tharney will need to create possessions for the scorers to finish.

The junior was also an All-GMC Blue Division selection in 2018, as a sophomore, and he does everything you could want a midfielder to do. Tharney plays side to side and up and down, dribbling the ball and stealing the ball.

Marvinny has been coaching the Chargers for 17 years, and he said Tharney is “one of the best center midfielders I’ve had.”

Scoring and possession. Spotswood is strong in those crucial areas. It is also strong in the other most important area: Defense.

Goalkeeper Andrew Bishara was the team’s fourth All-GMC Blue Division selection last fall, making 148 saves, or almost eight per game. The fourth year starter has slot receiver hands and a commanding voice in the box.

“He was one of the top goalies in Middlesex County last year,” Marvinny said.

Three other starters who are back from last year, Brian Lumsden, Jon Wasserman and Steven Karczewski, are coming together to revamp the Chargers’ back line. Wasserman played defense last year, but Lumsden and Karczewski played in outside midfield spots.

They both have speed and size, and are good in the air, making them natural fits for outside back spots. Marvinny thinks the trio will take some pressure off Bishara, who faced a barrage of shots on a regular basis last fall.

“They have been very solid for us so far in the preseason,” the coach said.

Spotswood has a really good lineup. It also has chemistry from last year. There is no reason why the Chargers can’t compete for the Central Jersey, Group 2 state title.

“There’s no clear favorite this year, so we hope to give ourselves a chance,” Marvinny said.