First-year College Station boys soccer coach Evan Foxworth never had to worry about channeling his inner car salesman to the Cougars.
“They’ve been on board since day one,” said Foxworth, who was an assistant at Lake Travis. “I hear the phrase you have to buy in a lot. I didn’t have to sell anything for these guys. We completely changed the style and the tactics and the way we play the game.”
At first glance, the Cougars have taken to Foxworth’s approach at the game and the belief they have in each other, with a 5-0-1 record going into their tournament in Katy.
The Cougars were sixth in District 19-5A last season at 3-9-2 and were 7-12-3 overall.
“I know they won seven games last season because I was going to talk to them and tell them we could go into district beating your win total last year, which would be an amazing way to start,” Foxworth said. “With the group of guys I saw coming in I told them from week one that we will be a playoff team. It was like they don’t have a choice because with the talent they have and the ability these guys have and everyone kind of embracing the new program that’s an expectation, not a hope, an expectation from now moving forward.”
The style Foxworth wants is one of possession over direct attacking soccer, although the Cougars at times have proven they can do both. Foxworth said practice is all about the first and second touches rather chasing balls down the channel and dribbling straight at opponents.
The Cougars return a majority of their players from last season, including senior center backs John McDougall and Christian Rodriguez-Castrejon. The two were unanimously voted captains and have proven to be a solid duo.
“They are big, physical and they are the leaders of our team,” Foxworth said. “They are the fourth and fifth coaches on the field. That is the role they play and they do it tremendously well.”
The two are supported by sophomore fullbacks Andrew Reichman, a starter last season, and Rafael Paiva-Moret.
The four are in front of a goalkeeping situation that is evolving into a pleasant surprise for Foxworth. Daniel Gilden was set to start between the woodwork, but now holds a midfielder position. That pushed Oudah Mortaje to attacking midfielder, where Brian Bullington originally started until he was moved to goalkeeper, where he played at A&M Consolidated as a freshman.
“It worked out perfectly because Gilden is phenomenal in the field and Bullington is a monster in goal,” said Foxworth, who will have a decision to make when Gilden’s thumb heals. “That is a good question. We will have to sit down and figure it out because we have two outstanding goalkeepers and both are outstanding field players.”
Also in the midfield and attacking on the outside are Oudah Mortaje, Jesus Rodriguez, freshman Sean Castillo, Shane Grant and Ian Enszor. Grant and Enszor will be more forward where they will complement junior Asaph Pineda, who through six games had nine goals and four assists.
“He’s a machine,” Foxworth said. “If he’s not finishing, he’s somehow attached to it. He’s made a run or assisted. We’ve been working him at attacking mid as well when guys start marking him up really high.”
Despite the start and the expectations, Foxworth knows there is more to making the playoffs than just saying it will happen, especially in a district that has produced a trio of teams that have had long playoff runs recently.
“We won’t be in the playoffs because it’s an easy time,” Foxworth said. “We’ll be in it because we have to prove ourselves by beating the best and the guys that have proven themselves the best are Consol, Paetow, Mag West all the big dogs of the district we are going to have to go at and take down.”