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Apple Valley starting goalie senior Josh Rosenthal blocks a shot during practice Aug. 23. Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

Two weeks ago at the South Suburban Conference Conference meeting and coaches’ clinic, Apple Valley boys’ soccer coach Chuck Scanlon had a favorite joke:

“Hey, if you don’t need any of those of those [players],” he’d say to coaches detailing their talent, “send them over to Apple Valley.”
 
The two-time defending Class 2A champs lost all of their starters from last season, but not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of sympathy in the room for the Eagles. And despite the squad’s significant losses, there seemed to be plenty of skepticism, too, that the Eagles won’t simply find a way to be successful once more.
 
Two years ago, the Eagles fielded a team widely charged with being a frontrunner on the list of all-time best boys’ soccer teams in the state. Before the 2010 season, Apple Valley lost most of that lineup, too, and teams around the section were eager for the chance to beat the beast. Instead, the Eagles went undefeated, capping a 47-game winning streak and another state championship.
 
“Nobody believes you,” said Scanlon, grinning about the way he downplayed his team this year and his pleas for compassion. “But they do respect us. They’ll say we have an incredible ability to pull those guys together.”
 
It’s not going to be easy this season. The Eagles lost three all-state players in forward Tom Obarski, midfielder Simon Goettl and goaltender Tim Van Beck. They also lost dynamic forward Hudson Fasching (a hockey standout who moved to Michigan to play on the national development team) as well as all the starters from the rock-solid starting defense Scanlon covets.
 
“It’s going to be harder for us this year — we’re definitely going to have to work a lot harder,” said senior captain Derek Smith, who moved from midfield to sweeper this season. “We don’t have the skill that we had last year, but I’m excited. I think we have a good junior class coming up, some good sophomores. This program has always been pretty good, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Apple Valley works on passing and shooting drills Aug. 23 during practice. Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

Those two observations — that the program is prestigious and position locks are few — have led to a renewed excitement at the school, which saw 110 kids come out for tryouts, compared with about 85-90 in the previous two years.

“Everyone loves soccer here at our school,” Smith said. “We lose 15 guys and people are hungry and ready to step in and fill those roles.”
 
Said junior co-captain Connor Flanagan of the tradition that underlies the excitement: “A lot of guys will play harder, because they know we’re a winning team and they don’t want to be the ones to change that.”
 
Scanlon has a lot of moving parts right now as he tries to figure out the best formula on the field. He operates a basic, fundamentals-first style of play — “All that cute stuff doesn’t really work in the game of soccer,” he said — and he isn’t afraid to take people out of position. Former forward/midfielder Connor Uzlik will play defense. Josh Rosenthal, who was an outside midfielder last year, will go in the net — a position he has played in the past.
 
“We’re in the process of putting pieces of the puzzle together,” Scanlon said.
 
Other teams that have seen the puzzle become a masterpiece before might still be skeptical.
 
“They’re looking at you like ‘Uh, what do you have there?’” Scanlon said, chuckling.
 
And while he doesn’t know that fully, just yet, there is one thing of which he’s sure:
 
“We’re not going to relinquish any ground we’ve had in the past, that’s for sure,” he said. “We won’t take any prisoners.”

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