RYE – From the end of last season in late October right through July, the Rye boys soccer team worked feverishly to build on what it had started in 2015.
The Garnets doubled their win total from six to 12, and they were intent on keeping the momentum going into 2016. They held offseason workouts and played well in the Lakeland Summer League, gearing up for what they hoped would be a big year.
Then came the news that no one saw coming.
Coach Sal Curella was leaving the program to accept an assistant principal position in his hometown of Queensbury, and Rye was abruptly left without a leader just weeks before the season began.
“It was quite sudden,” senior Tommy Gates said. “He sent out an e-mail the first week of August. It came out of the blue, so everyone was pretty shocked. No one was really happy about it because we all believed he was going to be here for the long-term and he was hyping up this season. … We’re just going to miss him.”
On the fly, the Garnets had to scramble for a new coach, but they think they found their man.
Ernest Harmon was most recently the coach at Woodlands and brings a wealth of experience. A former player for the Liberian National Team, the 56-year-old has coached both club teams and at high schools in Section 1.
“Mr. Curella tried to have a revolution with the whole program — trying to become a more successful program, and a winning program,” junior Carl Friedrich said. “He started that, and with (Harmon) coming in, he’s going to pick up what Curella started and bring it to a whole other level.”
Harmon has an up-and-coming team with which to work.
Rye graduated its top two offensive weapons from last season in Will Colwell and Leo Gomes, but brings back most of its starting lineup and should benefit from the addition of a couple former U.S. Academy players who are rejoining the program.
“Our whole back line is returning, and most of our midfield is returning starters,” Friedrich said. “We just gained two players from the Academy system, John Amaya and Sean Traynor, and I think they’ll be great.”
The pieces are in place — now it’s a matter of adjusting to a new coach with very little time to do so.
“Considering we had developed a system from the year before, knowing how to play it, we were mentally ready with coach Curella,” senior Thomas Tartaglia said. “All of a sudden with the quick switch, not only are tryouts going to be different, but our formation and our style of play will change under a new coach. Everything shifted and changed in that instant, and that’s really the hardest part.”
Harmon said that he likes what he sees so far, but he’s less than one week into practices. Before making any drastic changes, he wants to do more evaluating.
“I want to work with the boys, then apply the proper techniques predicated on the skills that they have,” Harmon said. “I don’t want to say, ‘I always play a 4-4-2 system.’ What if I don’t have the caliber of players to play that system? What if they’re better with a 4-3-3? I have a sense because I’ve been with the boys four days now, but I can’t say anything for sure yet.”