The latest guest on New England Soccer Journal’s “The Goal” podcast is Canton (Mass.) High School boys soccer coach Danny Erickson.
Erickson is now in his 30th season as Canton’s head coach. Last year, his program had its greatest season ever, advancing to the MIAA Division 2 state championship game, marking the first time the team had ever played for a state title. Canton fell to West Springfield, 2-0.
With the 2022 Massachusetts high school regular season set to begin across the state this week, Erickson joined the show to recap his team’s impressive performance last fall, discuss the statewide playoff system and power rankings, and preview what the upcoming campaign could look like for Canton and other contenders throughout the state.
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Here are some highlights from our discussion with Erickson.
On what made last year’s team so special:
Erickson: “Last year it was just kind of a little bit of magic all at once. It wasn’t all positive. It wasn’t all wins. We struggled a bit to find our way, particularly early. The month of September was a little bit of a rollercoaster ride, and then we really settled in and kind of found our groove and got some confidence, and kind of hit it right at the right time, headed into the state tournament. So, it was a collection of a bunch of really great kids from a lot of different backgrounds, and it just made it really special.”
On the team’s reaction to falling one win shy of a state championship:
Erickson: “Soccer is a funny sport. You need a lot of good things to happen to win a tournament game, and to win four of them on the road isn’t an accident. Our boys, I think even to this day, still talk and think about the journey we went on. I think far less to any of us is thinking about our loss to West Springfield, who was an excellent team in the state final. It was funny, I’ve been doing this, as you said, for like three decades, and that was really — even that stage for me as a coach — in that moment was big and I feel like I didn’t handle that stage as well as I’d like to handle that stage. I really could empathize with our kids. I think collectively none of us were on our A-game that day. I think we were all caught up a little bit in the moment.”
On the first year of the statewide postseason tournament in 2021:
Erickson: “I think there are still people that really missed the sectional component of it. Speaking for myself, I think it was a great experience. Most of the games, by the time you’re in the state tournament, most of these schools have lights. Very few kids are getting out of school too early. It’s not like there were fears of, ‘oh my goodness, if we’re traveling to here and there, we’re going to have to get kids out of school at 9 in the morning.’ I’m not saying there’s not a lot (of travel). I thought that’s the experience for the kids. To be able to travel all over the state was awesome.”
On the state’s power ranking system:
Erickson: “Historically, forever you qualified for the state tournament by winning 50% or more of your contests or being a league champ or a couple other ways. And then you are seeded with all the other schools strictly by your record. So it doesn’t matter who you play or when you play or how many games you play, you’re simply seeded by your record, your winning percentage. It’s an issue. It doesn’t really properly reflect an accurate seed. The media recognized that, and they worked for several years right through COVID to try to come up with a good alternative. I think they got really close. This is my own personal opinion, I think they got close. I do think that there’s a little too much stress on the margin of victory in these games. It does matter in this system. It actually matters quite a bit how much you win or lose by. I think you just have to be careful in high school sports when you start introducing that. We’re in educational athletics. We have to be real mindful of sportsmanship and we have to certainly be mindful of playing time for kids. Those are all things that are challenged a little bit by having margin of victory in the equation.”
On the quality of soccer throughout the state:
Erickson: “We played three or four, basically four Central Mass. teams out of the five teams we played in the state tournament last year. The quality and the level was very, very high. We played very, very well to compete with those teams. So, yeah, we think that experience is great.”
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