CLINTON - Optimism reigns supreme this season for the Clinton High School boys soccer team and second year coach Al DaSilva, and there is good reason for the positive outlook.
The Gaels pocketed their first victory of the season on Monday afternoon at the Veterans' Athletic Complex, downing Tahanto Regional 5-2 in a Midland-Wachusett League non-divisional contest.
Last Thursday, Clinton played Bromfield, the defending state champions, even for over 60 minutes before dropping a 2-1 decision in a Mid-Wach D Division game.
Three games into the season, the Gaels own a 1-2 overall record and are 0-1 in the league.
In the win over Tahanto, Clinton took a 3-1 lead in the first half and then added two more goals to put the game away. The Clinton goal scorers were sophomores Gabriel Almeida and Felipe Almeida, who had two goals each, while senior captain Jacob Pitre added one.
Zack Burkhardt netted both goals for the Stags (0-2).
Clinton senior captain and goalkeeper Mason Taylor made seven saves in the game.
"The boys really wanted this game and the energy was good from the get-go," DaSilva said. "We scored two goals early on and that set the pace.
"We started to pull away in the second half, and I was able to substitute in several players to keep us fresh and to wear them down," he said. "We had good passing and teamwork throughout the game.
"(Junior) Melvin Ruiz and (senior) Kevin Aguilar, who had two assists, had great games," DaSilva said. "Mason (Taylor) had a couple of unbelievable saves in the second half that kept us ahead."
Against Bromfield, Taylor was immense in goal, making 18 saves and keeping his team in the game.
After Pasha Sahin scored a goal for the Trojans early in the first half, giving his team a 1-0 lead, the Gaels' offense kicked into high gear, with Pitre, Gabriel Almeida and sophomore Lucas Almeida all having quality shots saved by Bromfield keeper Ethan Fitzsimmons.
The Clinton defense, led by Taylor, senior Juan Campos, junior Melky Felix, and sophomores Samuel Periera and Lucas Almeida, was solid throughout the game.
In the second half, down by a goal and with 20 minutes left in the game, the Gaels scored the equalizer.
Gabriel Almeida moved the ball up field, and spotted Pitre open about 10 yards in front of the circle. Pitre took the feed and pumped a bullet into the right corner of the net to make it a 1-1 game.
Four minutes later, Bromfield's Eli Fishbein scored the winning goal.
Legendary Bromfield coach Tom Hill, who is now the Trojans' assistant coach, was impressed by the effort given by Clinton.
"They gave us all we could handle," Hill said. "They look good this year."
DaSilva echoed Hill's sentiments.
"It was a tough loss, but I'm really proud of my team," DaSilva said. "They gave me everything they had, and that is all I can ask of them.
"Mason (Taylor) really stepped up, and he has been making save after save," he said. "He has been leading the defense and making sure they are in the right spot.
"I ask a lot of him and he delivers every time," DaSilva said.
The Gaels finished with a 3-14 record last year, but DaSilva is thinking postseason this year.
"Our goal this season is to make the (District) playoffs," DaSilva said. "Right now, we are chasing nine (qualifying) wins.
"We are also working on better communication," he said. "Each game we want to strive to work more as a team. I like the atmosphere and camaraderie of this team.
"They support each other, and work hard to get better," DaSilva said. "I see a lot of good things for this team as the season progresses."
The captains are junior Drew Dobeck and seniors Abenego Rondina, Nolan Niel, Pitre and Taylor.
"Drew (Dobeck) has been on the team since freshman year and is a great team leader," DaSilva said. "He is a center midfielder and a number-one team player. He pumps the team up, and was a big supporter of getting kids to summer leagues and captain's practices.
"Abenego (Rondina) has really stepped it up this year and has recruited kids for the team," he said. "Nolan (Niel) also organized captain's practices and got the kids together (before the season) three days a week. He always focuses on the positive.
"Jacob (Pitre) is one of the most fired up and best players on the team," DaSilva said. "He hustles every game and gives you everything he has. He was our leading scorer last year and is a great vocal leader.
"Mason (Taylor) always keeps the games close," he said. "As a keeper, he has natural reflexes and has made some amazing saves. He knows the game very well and is a natural born leader."
With over 40 players out for the varsity and junior varsity teams, the future looks bright for Clinton boys soccer.
"Soccer is really growing at the varsity, JV and middle school levels," DaSilva said. "Our athletic director (John Smith) was instrumental in starting a JV team last year, and that has made a big difference.
"It brings younger kids into the program and gives them a chance to play," he said. "That can only lead to more success."
In addition to Clinton and Bromfield, the other teams in the league are Littleton, Maynard and Lunenburg.
Other seniors on the squad are Juan Marcos Feliz, Charles Murphy, Will DiCelie, Emmanuel Gomez and Christian Maitz. Matheus Lucena, Dominic Koumbis, Anthony Calleva and Richard Retana are the other juniors.
The other sophomores are Elvis Velez, and Justin Trejo-Vicente, while Elijah Yurkovic and Carlos Velasquez are the team's freshmen.
Terry McGuire is the JV coach, while Paul Zapantis coaches the middle-school team.