When you lose the most physically dominant central defender tandem in the Suburban Council to graduation, it’s easy to know where to retool your team.
That’s the case at Niskayuna, where boys’ soccer coach Joe Carosella has to find a way to replace the twin tower pairing of graduated seniors Nick Shanahan and Brennan Colby, who helped the Silver Warriors get to the 2012 Class AA championship game and the quarterfinals a year ago.
“We’re trying a new system, so we’re tinkering,” said Carosella, who will likely change the shape of his back line with his pair of second-team Suburban Council defenders now in college. “We graduated some pretty big defenders last year, physically and literally. So we want to fill their shoes. If we can get our defensive ducks in a row, then we’ll be OK”
Carosella is looking for the right combination of play between his back line and the midfield.
“Once we grow into this new system, we’ll be fine,” he said. “A couple of our main defenders are seniors, so they know what’s going on.
“Our center mids are going to have to adjust. They’re going to have to realize that those guys in back are going to need some help. At least one of them is going to have to recognize that.
“And Riley’s back.”
Riley is goalkeeper Riley McDonald, who was the lone goalkeeper voted by the Suburban coaches to the 19-player first-team all-star unit in 2013. A strong shot stopper, McDonald will need to be vocal.
“He’s going to be a big part of it,” Carosella said, referring to any success the Niskayuna defense has.
Carosella is not nearly as concerned with the offensive side of things.
“We’ve got really good skills in the middle of the field, and our attackers are confident and smooth,” he said. “We should be able to possess and create chances.”
Returning players like Robert Champman, Michael Law, Kevin Chrisey and Tyler Hanft play key roles there.
One of the newcomers expected to play a strong role in the middle of the field is sophomore Ben Wagner, who turned in a solid effort in a scrimmage with Scotia-Glenville.
“He played great, tenacious defense,” said Carosella. “He breaks pressure, looks up and makes the right pass. We’ve got a bunch of guys who can do that kind of stuff.”
Niskayuna opens league play with home games against Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa, rivals in the SC North.