Given a choice, Guilderland boys’ soccer coach Mike Kinnally would prefer his team fly under the radar all season.
That’s going to be tough this weekend, as the Dutchmen are two wins away from a state title.
“We’re thrilled to be where we are, and the kids are excited, but we’re not ones to thump our chests and say, ‘Look at us,’ ” said Kinnally, whose 16-4-0 team plays Section V champion Fairport at 8:45 Saturday morning on the grass field at Middletown High School in a state Class AA semifinal. “Just winning sectionals was tough enough. People were looking at Bethlehem, Shenendehowa, Shaker, and rightly so.
“We just kept plugging along, we’re pretty consistent and we’re looking forward to the chance to play for a state title.”
Kinnally made some adjustments after the Dutchmen got off to a 2-2 start.
“We moved Connor O’Brien from midfield to the back, and moved Chris Connelly from the back to midfield,” said Kinnally. “That was the key move, because it made us stronger in the middle and the back. Connor has worked really well with Noah [Scott].”
Guilderland won its next nine games — three by shutout, five allowing a single goal — and is where no Dutchmen team has gone since 1996,
O’Brien did need to be persuaded, though.
“I told him he’s a marking back with a midfielder’s mentality,” Kinnally said. “That wasn’t a good day, when I told him. He didn’t want to go in back.
“But he’s become an all-league player in the back.”
The senior has also been able to stay very much part of the offense.
“In 2008, no one wanted to go forward out of the back, almost to the point of paranoia,” said Kinnally, referring to a team that won its first 22 games before losing in the regional final. “This team is very comfortable going forward, more so than any team I’ve in the 11 years I’ve been here. Every one of them, except for Noah, at some point, has played an attacking position.”
That mind set hasn’t turned into an eye-popping number of goals from play, but the pressure has forced teams to foul, and the Dutchmen have been deadly on restarts. “Golden,” was how Kinnally described it after winning the sectional title
“Our backs have scored a third of our goals,” Kinnally pointed out. “And O’Brien has 15 assists.”
No single player has registered double figures in goals, but Guilderland has permitted just 20 in its 20 games.
“We’re just solid in the back, midfield and up front,” said Kinnally, who started nine seniors in the Section II final against Albany. “We don’t care where the shots come from. This isn’t the most athletic team we’ve ever had but the pieces just seem to fit.”
Monroe-Wooodbury (Section IX) and Massapequa (Section VII) play in the other “AA” semifinal, with the winners meeting for the title Sunday at 10 a.m. on the facility’s turf field.