2016 Boys Soccer Coach of the Year: Poor guides experienced Falcons to success

Ted Poor

WOODSTOCK – Ted Poor enters every high school soccer season overly optimistic about his team’s chances for success. It’s an attitude he said he’s had every spring since taking over as Central High School’s varsity boys soccer coach in 2010.

This past season, perhaps more than most, provided Poor and the Falcons with an even greater reason for confidence.

The Falcons boasted a deep, experienced roster that included eight seniors and 10 juniors among their 22 players, and nearly all of them had competed year-round together as part of the Shenandoah County Soccer League Maxx travel team. They represented a solid returning core of players from the Central team that had won 10 matches in 2015 and could’ve experienced even more if it weren’t for the handful of losses by one goal. Poor just needed the Falcons to find a little more consistency in 2016.

What they found was the most success the program had experienced in the last five seasons, a 12-win campaign that culminated in Central’s first regional tournament appearance since 2011. More consistency? Maybe not so much. A rash of injuries kept Poor and his assistant coaches, Sam Truban and Ryan Bowen, on their toes as each week became a quest to regain and maintain balance.

“The silver lining was that I had to dig into the bench,” Poor said last week. “We had a strong bench. There were a lot of boys that got more playing time than they would’ve probably had had we not had the injuries, and they all did an outstanding job.”

Depth and experience – “seasoned players,” as Poor called them – were the keys for the Falcons in 2016. So was team speed, which Central had both at the forefront of its offensive attack – the quintet of seniors Korey Wolford (19 goals) and Elmer Lopez (10 goals) and juniors Ivan Alvarado (nine goals), J.P. Bennett (five goals) and Ben Truban (five goals) accounted for 83 percent of the Falcons’ 58 goals scored this past spring – and along its defensive back line in front of sophomore goalkeeper Dean Woodwell.

“We were fast in the back, and so what the boys would do is when we were down on one side we would push our back outside defender in to the midfield,” said Poor, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2016 Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.

Central’s speed, particularly in the back of the Falcons’ formation, played well into the Falcons’ favor, especially early in the season. Central gave up only three goals in its first five matches of 2016 and won three straight shutouts in a stretch that included key 2-0 wins over William Monroe and Clarke County.

“Clarke has been a thorn in our side for years and we finally seem to have gotten on line with them,” Poor said. “I’m not saying we’re always gonna be better, but at least we can play with them. Beating them at their field 2-0 was a huge win for us.”

About a third of the way through the season, however, the ailments began piling up for the Falcons.

“The guys were getting unusual injuries,” Poor said. “Bad back, something with a hip, things you couldn’t really put your finger on, where they weren’t playing for three or four games. That was tough, to get the balance.”

After starting the season 8-1, the Falcons hit a stretch where they lost four of their next five matches while mustering just two goals in those four defeats. The last game of that stretch, a 2-1 loss to Warren County on May 10, ended up costing Central a home game in the Conference 35 tournament.

“We tripped up with Warren,” Poor said. “Warren had some decent players. We lost Armando Carreno to a broken ankle in the beginning of the second half and that really changed the tone of the game. I think the guys were a little bit put off by that.”

Central responded by winning its final two regular season matches before beating Clarke County, 4-1, in the conference semifinals to secure a spot in the Region 2A East tournament field.

Following a 7-0 loss to George Mason – the last of three defeats at the hands of the eventual Group 2A state champs this past season – in the conference championship, the Falcons saw their season end with a 2-1 loss to Robert E. Lee on the road in the regional quarterfinals on May 30.

“It was a dirt field, which I thought was a little unfortunate,” Poor said of his team’s final game of 2016. “We played at four o’clock in the afternoon. We got screwed up, there was no water here for us so we went there with no water. Little things like that. And I’m not one to complain, but 2-1, we could’ve easily won that game. … And then as I had always said, if we got into regions we could go on. But it was our goal this season to get into regions and we did, so I was pleased.”

This past spring marked Poor’s seventh as Central’s head coach (he took over the varsity job in 2010 after serving two seasons as the Falcons’ junior varsity head coach). For 18 years prior to taking up coaching high school soccer, Poor, a native of Hohokus, New Jersey, and a former NCAA Division I soccer player at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, spent his time coaching recreational and travel soccer.

“I like working with the older boys because I think there’s a lot of life lessons that soccer can teach you and you can learn,” Poor said. “I always tell a story, I was a banker for 35 years, and when I put my department together I would say, ‘OK, he’s a striker, but he’s not. He’s a midfielder.’ And I would kind of balance off the strength of the people that I had with my mentality toward what I did with soccer. I think that soccer was a major portion of my life.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com