NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The West Essex boys soccer team is adjusting to a newer roster, but still remains with high expectations for the 2019 season.

“We always look to compete with every single team that we face," said head coach Rob Grosso. "We’re looking to compete every single game against every single opponent, we want to be top contenders in our Conference; that’s always a goal for us."

With a roster made up primarily of juniors, the group is hoping to grow into a championship contender.

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“We’re definitely a younger group in terms of the seniors in our program, but we have a strong nucleus of juniors so we’re excited to work hard this year,” said Grosso.

The squad is currently focused on positioning and team building to in the preseason to create a symbiotic relationship to translate into their season.

“From a comraderie and team chemistry standpoint we’re in a good place and we know we’re going to have to work hard to get good results,” said Grosso.

Grosso felt the team will be fairly balanced this year in terms of strengths on offensive and defensive side of the ball. Overall, however, his main focus for the group is to keep balls out of the net.

“We’re going to put an emphasis from a tactical standpoint of defending well,” he said.

Leading the defensive unit will be team captain Mike Macrino, who will play the left back position. Although it's a spot he has grown accustomed to over the past few years, Macrino will need to take command verbally of the unit with three other new starters joining the fold.

“Guys will have to step up, we don’t have a lot of varsity experience on defense, but they’re adapting quickly and they’ll step up and earn their positions,” said Grosso.

In net, the Knights will employ a timeshare consisting of Chris Caggiano and Chris Housel. Both saw limited action last year, but the goalie who performs the best in the practices leading up to the individual games will get the start for West Essex.

“They’re going to be fighting everyday in practice for the starting position, but they are 100 percent comparable and have different strengths and weaknesses, so that’s going to be a toss up depending on how they play in practice every single day,” said Grosso.

A key player on the attack for West Essex will be junior Ryan Kean. Playing behind the team’s leading scorer last year, Kean produced a pair of goals along with an assist.  He will undoubtedly improve those numbers with increased reps this season.

“[Kean] is very fast, he’s very fast off the ball and on the ball so we’re hoping his explosiveness will help him create breakaway opportunities against defenders and against goalkeepers,” said Grosso.

At midfield, Luke Brignola will be a key factor in the teams game between the 20’s. Brignola is a junior who possesses a lot of skill offensively for the Knights and is regarded as a facilitator for the squad’s offense.

Rounding out the experience in the midfield will be Aidan Barrett and Josh Lubetkin. The senior and junior each combined for three goals and four assists last year for the squad. Senior Johnathan Trigazis will factor into the outside position to help out in the attack as well.

“I think our midfield will have to play smart tactically as to whether to play one touch or two touch, and we’re going to have to be creative in the midfield, our ability will allow us to be creative,” said Grosso.

West Essex will look to get off to a strong start as they open their season against Bloomfield on September 4. Until then, the group will continue to focus on their fundamentals.

“We have to do a lot of positioning, we have to do a lot of tactical things defensively as a team so we can have success when we win the ball,” said Grosso. "We’re going to work on our passing and our defensive scheme right through preseason."

The Knights will open their season on Wednesday against Bloomfield.