Blistering offense punctuates Rebels perfect start

 Champlin Park forward Sydney McLain rushes the ball up the field during his team’s 4-2 victory over Armstrong Aug. 29. McClain scored a goal in the win. (Photo by Nick Clark – Sun Newspapers)

Champlin Park forward Sydney McLain rushes the ball up the field during his team’s 4-2 victory over Armstrong Aug. 29. McClain scored a goal in the win. (Photo by Nick Clark – Sun Newspapers)

Boys soccer team scores 13 goals in first three games of 2012 season

The question didn’t catch anyone associated with the Champlin Park boys soccer team off guard.

The Rebels knew precisely how inept they were offensively a year ago, and what the result of their blistering hot start to 2012 had already nearly accomplished.

It was, frankly, impossible not to notice.

Three games into the boys high school school soccer season, Champlin Park had already netted 13 goals in roaring to a 3-0 start that has been equal parts stunning and stirring for a team that scored all of 15 total goals just a year ago.

What is surprising, however, is the route the Rebels have taken from transforming themselves from a team that can’t score to one that – at least so far – can’t be stopped.

There were no major shifts in philosophy or approach. In fact, there were no changes at all.

“None,” said head coach Gavin Pugh. “It is the same ideas, same rhythm, same tempo, and same system of play. Nothing has changed. It is just whether ultimately we can spark in the moment and recognize the patterns of play. Some years you have it, some years you don’t.”

The Rebels have certainly grasped it so far, evidenced by not only their production, but the way they have gone about it manufacturing it.

They opened the year with a 4-1 victory over Woodbury Aug. 23. That was followed with a 5-0 blanking in Rogers Aug. 25 and then a 4-2 victory over Armstrong Aug. 28.

The win over the Falcons was one of precession. Pugh’s last request of the team prior to the start of the game was to start fast. Nine minutes in, Champlin Park already had a goal when Brennan Burchill headed in a ball in the box.

The Rebels then made it 2-0 midway through the first half on Sydney McLain’s sixth goal of the year.

Armstrong took advantage of a penalty kick to make it a 2-1 game early in the second half, but Andrew Ahlstrom restored the two-goal lead shortly after and then Esteban Arias made his arrival a noteworthy one by scoring the Rebels fourth goal in the 61st minute.

All four goals were a result of perfect play from one end of the field to the other, which exactly how the coaches designed the offense.

“We are certainly a counter-attacking team, and we are just kind of embracing that,” Pugh said. “We don’t want to be to restrictive on some players I’ve put them in a creative and fluid system of play, and it really – at least at the moment – is playing to their strengths.”

There are plenty of those to use. Only a handful of regulars graduated off last year’s team. Those that were coming back used the summer to get better, and it has translated to plenty of success through the first two weeks.

The group also got a boost early last week when Arias was cleared to play after a lengthy process that finally ended with the Costa Rica native learning he was eligible to join the team.

His first game was against Armstrong. Pugh didn’t start him, opting to ease the senior into the lineup. But once inserted, his impact was immediate, and it led to a goal that followed a deft display of dribbling from the Rebels newest weapon.

“He is a very popular player because he is an international student, and he’s been essentially adopted not only by a family, but by a whole community,” Pugh said. “Just the news that he can play has lifted the whole group. We all know his quality. Everybody is buzzing about having him on the squad.”

That is, those that haven’t been already buzzing about what the rest of the team has done this far.

“It’s been a good start, but that is it,” Pugh said. “I’m obviously happy with the way we are playing, but we won’t be judged until we play a couple games in our conference.”

Those games were scheduled to come in bunches starting this week. Champlin Park played at Osseo Sept. 4, and then at home against Centennial at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.