Oak Park and River Forest boys soccer coach Jason Fried knew this season would be different because of the pandemic. Yet, once the Huskies were able to step on the pitch for the first time this spring, they felt grateful and excited to work together to keep improving as players, coaches, and human beings. And Fried was eager to begin the challenge of molding a talented — albeit young — roster into a winner.
“We graduated 13 seniors from our 2019 team, eight of them were starters. We knew our make-up this year would be very different,” said Fried, who’s in his fifth season leading the Huskies. “We’re not as experienced, but have a lot of new guys who have the talent and drive to continue with our success.”
OPRF has a record of 2-3-1 entering this week. The Huskies got off to a slow start, losing three of their first four matches of the season, but have registered solid performances in their last two — a 5-1 win over Glenbard West on March 25 followed by a 1-1 draw on March 30 against Morton, which is one of Chicagoland’s top programs.
“We’ve played well against all the teams we’ve faced so far, but with so many new faces, a little disorganization has cost us,” Fried said. “I’m so proud of how hard they’ve worked the past few weeks and now we’re seeing success with the last two matches.”
Though young overall, OPRF does have a few talented seniors that have provided leadership, including Paul Garcia, Ben Ryan and Nicolo Stella.
“Paul is a humble player who has had a very positive outlook this year, even with all the challenges and is very motivated every day,” Fried said. “Ben is a great leader who has great technical ability and can play almost anywhere on the field. Nicolo loves the game of soccer and plays with so much passion.”
Fried is pleased with the development of freshman Easton Bogard and believes he has a bright future.
“Easton is a talented and hardworking player that is a great addition to our attack. He will have a positive impact on our team this season, and if he continues to stay focused on developing, he’ll have so much success going forward,” said Fried.
The Huskies are disappointed there will be no state tournament and no out-of-state competition this spring, along with having a limited amount of fans attending games. But Fried feels his players have not let these difficulties get the best of them, and that they have been focused on a daily basis. If they do that, he believes the outcomes they want will follow.
“I think they’ve done an amazing job focusing on what is important, and that’s the time spent on the pitch with their teammates and coaches,” Fried said. “The seniors have this the hardest because there is no next year, and the maturity and focus they’ve shown is really impressive. They are driving this team to a great season and will have a positive impact on our future successes as well.”
Following a home match with Proviso West on April 6, OPRF has road matches at Willowbrook on April 8 and Hinsdale Central on April 10.
The Huskies will close out the season with home contests against Addison Trail on April 13 and Lyons Township on April 15.