The Eagles have maintained its spot among the state’s elite in 2014 with a 9-1-1 overall record and a 4-0 mark in Region 5A as well as the No. 1 ranking in the latest Eurosportscoreboard.com Class A poll.
Some of Atlanta International’s victories have come against higher classification schools — including a 4-2 win over AAA team Blessed Trinity Feb. 27 and a 4-1 defeat of AAAAAA squad Druid Hills Feb. 22 as well as a 3-3 tie with AAA unit Woodward Feb. 25.
“The team’s played really well,” coach Matt Padula said. “We feel like we’re off to a really good start. It was good to beat those bigger schools and establish ourselves going into region play against the single A teams.”
Community coach Jeff Welp said he is also encouraged by the Eagles’ performance so far, but adds the team still has the potential to get better.
“We’re still figuring a lot of things out and we’re growing as a team,” Welp said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best soccer game yet, that’s for sure. It’s a great group of kids to work with, but I think there’s a lot of room for improvement as well.”
The school is fortified by a strong core of veterans, many of whom played on the Eagles’ 2012 state runner-up squad.
“Our senior class is strong and the majority of our team is upperclassmen,” Padula said. “We’re very experienced versus a typical high school team and that’s helping us a lot.”
The Eagles have also benefited from the multi-national character of the team, with many of its players coming from other countries where soccer is the most popular sport.
“We have kids from all over the world who were born and bred into the world of soccer,” Padula said. “It’s easy for them since they’ve grown up with the game. It’s the biggest sport we have within the school, so it’s a big deal.”
Atlanta International has been especially strong on the offensive side with an average of four goals a game.
“We score a lot of goals,” Welp said. “We score about three a game, which is pretty good at this level. We’re able to put a lot of pressure on our opponents and create mistakes and capitalize on that. But, we’re making too many mistakes in the back and giving up some cheap goals.”
Junior center midfielder Tomas Perez leads the team in scoring with 12 goals and six assists, while seniors Nick Padula, Bosho Sale, Reilly Proctor and Jakob Mitchell are the other key members of a strong midfield for the Eagles.
Defensively, the school is led by senior goalkeeper Lucas Fischer, who has helped the Eagles register three shutouts so far this season.