psa pg 7 9-15-22


From left: Rafael Machado, Kel Merckel, Valentino Labella, Tomás Melon. Photo by Ryan Dunnigan, PSA.

The first two-plus weeks of the PSA soccer season have been pleasantly surprising for coach Ryan Dunnigan.
The Mustangs are running out a team that is significantly younger than either of his previous two (or the two prior to his arrival, for that matter), which typically means early growing pains. And while that still may happen, Dunnigan and his few veterans like what they’ve been seeing.
“I wasn’t looking at this like a rebuilding year,” Dunnigan said, “but the first couple of weeks have been a bit more than I expected. It’s been nice to see some of the younger guys really settling in, guys like Unai (Castillejo) and Geo (Aniceto), who are arguably two of our better players, regardless of their age.”
Still, the Mustangs figure to rely heavily on their six returning members of the Class of 2023 – keeper Rafael Machado, forwards Kel Merckel and Uriel Dalipo, midfielder Tomás Melon, defender Valentino Labella, and midfielder/defender Simon Muhire. Machado, Merckel, Melon, and Labella have been named team captains. Aside from Labella however, all had limited roles last year.
“I’m going to be asking a lot of them now this season,” Dunnigan said, “because we’re just not as deep as we were last year. Simon has taken a big step forward from playing basically no first-team minutes to now being a 90-minute starter. Tomás and Kel played sparingly. But they’ve matured as players. Uriel is going to need to come in (he arrived this week) and be our best player. If he comes in and performs – with the tools that he has and the step forward that I think he’s ready to take – I think we’re going to have a good chance.”
Merckel answered the bell this past Saturday, getting PSA’s season off to a strong start by scoring the game-winner in the final minute of play to secure a 2-1 win in New Hampshire over High Mowing. Melon assisted on both goals; the other was scored by Fran Barcelo.
PSA is playing this year in a league with Woodstock Academy, St. Thomas More, Hoosac School, and Pathfinder Academy, which is not an easy schedule to navigate, particularly with the youth on the roster.
“There’s a young group of guys coming in and being a returner (and captain) is a big responsibility,” Merckel said. “I’m hoping to guide the guys, show them the right direction, have a good time, and hopefully we can experience different things compared to last season.”
The Mustangs have good balance throughout the three lines. No true standouts perhaps, but multiple strong players in each spot. And they are always well-organized, which allows them to remain competitive, even if they are a bit young.
“We don’t have a strong point where we’re attack-heavy or defense-heavy or have a midfield that will carry us through games,” Dunnigan said. “There’s more of a balance that will help carry us throughout.
“And being young is the big thing…a lot of these guys will get a lot of important minutes and experience this year, and they’ll get to know the system. That’s the hope.”
Stephen Nalbandian
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy


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