Forest Grove embraced its coachs challenge to play as a team, and the Vikings are unbeaten through four games

As the Forest Grove boys soccer season began, Angelo Simonetti gave the team a classic coach pep talk.

“I told the kids, ‘It doesn’t matter the name behind the shirt. At the end of the day, the name on the front of the shirt is what’s going to stay forever,’” Simonetti said. “The name ‘Forest Grove,’ that’s stayed there for the last 100 years and it’s going to be there for the next 100 years. That’s what you’re playing for.”

The Vikings bought the speech.

“I have a better group of kids with chemistry than I’ve ever had,” Simonetti said. “Everybody understands what job you have to do and what you can do to help the team. Those results have shown up on the field.”

The Vikings are 4-0-0 this season, compiling several very convincing victories. Forest Grove won 5-2 against the Dalles Wahtonka, 8-1 against Canby, 3-1 against Barlow and 5-1 against Benson.

“The hard work, the teamwork, the team wanting to play together, that translated into the first four games,” Simonetti said. “The team as a unit and group, they understand what’s going on, they understand the role they have to play as a team. The individual players are becoming secondary right now. Everyone just wants to play as a team.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Vikings’ start to the season is that they are doing it without any single player standing out, in Simonetti’s eyes.

“Soccer is just a different game,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have one point guard, or one quarterback, or one center, or one pitcher. In soccer you need 11 players plus a good bench to have a team. The most important part of this team is the team.”

In playing as a team, Simonetti has challenged the Vikings to go away from the “kick and chase” philosophy that usually pervades prep soccer and instead play a more sophisticated “possession game.”

“Basically high school plays a lot of running ball,” Simonetti said. “You kick the ball forward and it’s running, running, running and trying to catch the guys on a short defense.

“Our system is different. We work with the ball. We keep possession, we look for penetration in the middle, we’re looking for the right moment to attack the goal. We don’t go for the goal at all costs. They know what times to go for it.

“We play ground ball, not air ball because we’re short. I don’t have big guys in the front. My forwards are 5-7 and 5-9. Air balls aren’t going to be effective for us. We understand that we need to work the ball on the ground, create opportunity, be patient.”

Simonetti says that in past years, the perception that other schools around the Pacific Conference have had of Forest Grove — that they are a cupcake — has bothered his players. Now, they are ready to prove that they can compete with anyone.

“I know everybody is looking at Forest Grove differently,” Simonetti said. “In the past they called Forest Grove the doormat. The kids were hurt a lot by that. They understand that it’s time to turn the page.

“We can keep this pace. The kids are looking for a good season.”

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