This year, coaches say, is an aberration.

Southern Maine has become a region known for soccer standouts.

Since 1989, 19 of the state’s 23 All-American selections – one chosen each year, unless there is a tie in the voting – have come from Topsham and points south. But in an area where there seems to be a number of standout boys’ soccer players each year, this season is different.

Fazal Nabi, the standout midfielder at Portland High, seems to be the first player coaches name when asked about players to watch. But behind Nabi and Falmouth teammates Sam White and Michael Bloom, the pack of standouts appears thin.

Or maybe not.

The dearth of standouts in southern Maine could be alarming to some, but not to many local coaches, who believe it could benefit the high school game this season.

Instead of a focus on one or two players on each team, coaches believe the focus will shift to creating chemistry and working together as a team, and less on shutting down a top player to handle an opponent.

“This will be one of the most interesting seasons in a while,” said Scarborough Coach Mark Diaz, whose team is the two-time defending Class A champion.

“You could see a darkhorse like South Portland or Westbrook who could contend, but on the other hand there’s a lot of parity in the league. I’d be surprised if anyone goes undefeated, and resiliency is the key.”

If any team is successful, Diaz believes, “it’s a team that can be mature and deal with adversity well.”

But this isn’t something that’s new to teams. In fact, it may not even have occured to some coaches.

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” Gorham Coach Tim King said. “My team’s like that, though. We have a lot of good players but no great players. My belief is that it’s so wide open and teams have a decent chance at finishing at the top.”

King attributes the Rams’ success in 2009 to chemistry and a purpose.

“It was a huge part of our success last year, buying into the team concept,” King said.

Mike Andreasen uses his 2004 team as an example, a team that didn’t have one standout but won the Class A state championship.

“In 2003 we didn’t, either, to some extent,” Andreasen said. “But you just get years like that when you look to your senior class. You might see some freshmen, sophomores and juniors who set themselves up for next year, too.”

A lack of a collection of standouts, or even one standout on a team, could help parity in the Western Maine Conference and Southern Maine Activities Association.

It also presents younger players a chance to find their niche on a team.

“There was a strong senior class last year in the SMAA,” South Portland Coach Bryan Hoy said.

“But I think we’ll see a lot of juniors emerging as standouts this year.”

But, King added, “it also could go the other way. Without that person to step forward, you could flounder. When things get tough, you look to a star player to pull you through.”

It also will force teams to get creative in their approach to the game.

“Chemistry is a big part of it,” Andreasen said.

“Here, with this group of players, you’re going to see them work hard together, like a team like Yarmouth does. They’re so successful because they work so hard.”

In the short term, Andreasen sees the dearth as a lull, and in the long term as part of a cycle.

“You don’t see people jumping out,” he said. “But I think it will be neat because it will be more spread out and even in competition.

“You’ll see a lot more parity. I’m not saying anyone’s going to start losing games but really, there’s no standout team.”

The standout teams, Andreasen believes, will have to work harder to win.

“A lot of us are in that boat, which is good,” he said.


Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]