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After starting the season at 0-5, the Atlantic High School boys’ soccer team has won three of their past five games as they try and get back to .500.
“COVID really messed us up,” said Charles Fahey Ramirez, a senior defender and midfielder for the Eagles. “Coming off COVID, the chemistry and the bond on the team, we kind of lost some of that. Right now, we are trying to get the boys together and get that chemistry back together so that way in the field it shows and we can play smoothly.
“Coming into the year, I knew it was going to be a slow start and it was, but we are coming back,” said Ramirez, 18, who lives in Boynton Beach and has been a member of the squad for the past two years. “We train every single day and the chemistry is coming together. It’s getting there.”
Ramirez said the talent is there to be a playoff contender by the end of the season.
“We just need the chemistry,” he said. “My coach has been here a very long time and he dedicates himself to the team like crazy. He pushes us to be better. I have played for a lot of coaches and a lot of teams and no one is like him.
“That is something we value, the hard work and the dedication and that is something we bring every day, every game, every weekend, every practice,” he said. “Of and on the field, we dedicate ourselves.”
Atlantic opened the season with a 2-0 loss against Wellington and a 4-0 setback against John I. Leonard. The Eagles then fell to North Broward Prep, the No. 9-ranked team in the Class 3A state poll. The team started to show some promise with a 2-1 setback against Forest Hill and a 3-0 loss to perennial state power Boca Raton.
Atlantic sandwiched 3-0 victories over Palm Beach Gardens and Seminole Ridge around a 3-0 loss to Somerset Academy Canyons. The Eagles split its next two games topping Dreyfoos School of the Arts, 5-0, and fell to Spanish River, 4-0.
Atlantic boys’ soccer coach Kenley Mathurin, who is in his eighth year as head coach and in his 12th season at the school, expected a slow start to the season.
“We have a young team,” he said. “They are not that bad. We can do better. We have to work a little bit harder. At practice, we have to come in and do what we need to do. The boys are willing to do the hard work.”
The Eagles have 16 players with three goalkeepers and with the JV team, they have 11 or 12 players. Mathurin said in addition to layers graduating, some chose not to return to school and just do virtual schooling.
“The biggest problem we have is the numbers,” Mathurin said. “COVID hurt us a lot last year. We didn’t have many players come in at all and we had to fight with the numbers sometimes and therefore sometimes practice can be hard because we don’t have many players there.
“We are going to make it work,” Mathurin said. “We are going to focus on what needs to be done and pushing the boys because we have the talent.”
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In 2017-18 under Mathurin, the Eagles (17-4-3) won its first district title in four years and fifth in school history with a 2-1 win against Monarch in Parkland. The team slipped to a 6-6-5 record the following season. They were 1-10-4 in 2019-20 and 8-5-1 last season, losing 2-1 (6-5 PKs) to Royal Palm Beach in the regional quarterfinals.
He also pointed to the loss to North Broward Prep as an example of what he and the team have to overcome.
“Two of our seniors came to that game at halftime and we couldn’t get back to overcome that,” Mathurin said. “We missed some top players from last year too. Coming in, did I expect us to struggle early? Not so much. I expected to struggle. I expected us to be right around .500. It has been a struggle so far, but we are Atlantic. We are one love and we are going to push the boys to get something going.”
Delray Beach’s Alexander Garcia, a 17-year-old senior forward for the Eagles, said the team has to continue to develop team chemistry.
“We have a lot of new players because half of our team left, mostly seniors,” he said. “We have some seniors on this team so we are trying to show our leadership and improve on that.
“I guess I will have to encourage them and motivate them,” Garcia said, “especially on the pitch and telling them what to do because some of them are not as experienced as others, especially with their positioning. Our mentality and passion need to improve.”