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First year Spanish River High School boys’ soccer coach Matt Weston has picked up where his predecessor left off.
The Sharks reached the Class 7A state semifinals last season where they fell 3-1 to the eventual state champion Gulf Coast. The Sharks, under former coach Stephen Cochran, finished the year at 17-2-1.
Weston has the Sharks headed in the right direction this season as they have started the year at 6-0-3.
“I want to build something special,” Weston said. “My wife is a teacher here and we have been in the area for five months. It is a longterm project for the both of us to impact kids beyond the field.
“We have played nine games and six of the nine games have been a battle,” Weston said. “We have had moments of quality here and there and I couldn’t be more excited about working with the group.”
Originally from Manchester, England, Weston moved to the United States 15 years ago.
“I moved to South Florida to get involved in some passionate football (soccer),” Weston said. “I was attracted to the school for a number of reasons. It is a great area, a great location and good people with passionate footballers, and that is why I wanted to come here and they have served it up.”
Weston, the former head coach of FC New York and VSI Tampa Bay FC in the USL Professional League and technical director of Premier Development League team Ocala Stampede, said he knew it would be a challenge as he tried to replace the dozen seniors who graduated.
“We knew there would be a makeover with the team,” Weston said. “What I immediately saw was a couple of existing seniors who have come up through the ranks and been here a long time, including Tayton Osborne, Javier Vasquez Silva as leaders and underneath that we have a group of players and sprinkle in some 10th-graders and a couple of freshmen who have done ever so well. When I saw them in tryouts, I knew I had something to work with. When you step across the line, you want to win, and you have to win your individual battles.
“It’s a project and it is going to be a longer-term type thing where they graduated a bunch of kids from last year and we have to start again,” he said. “We are already competing, which is nice. We also have a good base for next year. I have four or five 11th-graders who can form a base that we can spring off of for next year. I also have a great freshman in Sebastian Mendez who is going to go on to great things, collegiate bound for sure.”
Weston began his career in the youth academy with Manchester United, where he played for four years. Weston was a member of the club’s School of Excellence, which boasted some of the country’s finest talent.
Weston moved to Ipswich Town in 1990, where he played for five years, including a five-month loan stint with Stockport County. He had later stints with semi-pro club’s Leigh RMI and FC United of Manchester.
Upon arriving in the United States in 2006, Weston became a player development officer for Major League Soccer. He then moved on to work as the assistant coach at the University of Bridgeport in 2008 before setting up his own business, Weston Pro Soccer. He also runs a soccer scholarship recruitment business called Weston Pro Scholarship Specialist.
Weston said he would like to work better with some of the travel soccer clubs and academies in the area who are playing in tournaments and may take some of the players off the high school roster.
“We may have to reshuffle the pack,” Weston said. “They have a small opportunity to get in front of the right people at the right time. High school should work hand in hand with club. I wish it did more and you try and build good relationships with the DOCs (directors of coaching) to get the guys back.
“Our 2-2 tie with Boca Raton was about school pride and I don’t think you get that in the club game,” Weston said. “They go to war together because they are in class together and that makes a big difference. I wish it wouldn’t be interrupted because a club coach would want to hold on to a player too tight.”
Spanish River senior goalkeeper Tayton Osborne, 17, of Boca Raton, said the style of play is different.
“It’s two different coaches and neither is better or worse. This year we have a lot younger team,” he said. “We have a lot more to develop, which is good.
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“Coach Weston has a good background, which is good to have always,” he said. “Last year, coach (Steve) Cochran had developed us as freshmen, sophomores and juniors and led us to the state semifinal. We fell short last year, but we wanted to come back this year and see if we can win it all.”
Osborne said he is not surprised with the early results.
“Not at all,” he said. “We have a great coach and we started early with conditioning, and we were prepared for all of these teams. Skill wise, we have players who are smart, and I think we can go all of the way.
“Graduating 12 seniors…a lot of these new guys have really good skill on the pitch,” Osborne said. “We know how to move the ball around. Our practices with coach Weston are high intensity and everything, so I think we have what it takes to go all of the way.”