From role player to leader

MacDonald steps up for Hawks

Woodland senior Adam MacDonald (18) faces off against Torrington’s Seth Gesmondi (11) Oct. 8. MacDonald has made the transformation from role player to the Hawks’ leader on the pitch this season. –KYLE BRENNAN

Woodland senior Adam MacDonald (18) faces off against Torrington’s Seth Gesmondi (11) Oct. 8. MacDonald has made the transformation from role player to the Hawks’ leader on the pitch this season. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — Entering the season opener Sept. 10, the Woodland boys soccer team’s fate was anything but certain. A very young and inexperienced group didn’t know where it would find its offense with top returner Sam Merriman out with a back injury.

Just a few minutes into the game, the Hawks got their answer. It came in the form of senior Adam MacDonald.

MacDonald, one of just three seniors on Woodland’s roster and the only one to be on the squad for four years, netted the season’s first goal from inside the box and later added an assist as the Hawks salvaged a 2-2 tie with Crosby.

“I wasn’t expecting to score,” MacDonald said. “I heard Tony (Moutinho, head coach) and Izzy (Oliveira, assistant coach) yelling at me so I was like, all right. I wasn’t expecting it.”

Since then, MacDonald has remained among the Hawks’ leading goal scorers. Although Woodland’s 2-8-1 record may not show it, MacDonald thinks his team is showing progress.

“We’re just learning how to play together,” he said. “When the season started we didn’t know how to play as a team; we were just playing as individuals. In the Sacred Heart win (3-2 in overtime Sept. 27) we started to learn how to play with each other.”

According to Moutinho, much of that can be attributed to MacDonald’s leadership as one of the only starters with previous experience.

“You always need one upperclassman to step up and lead by example,” Moutinho said. “At the beginning of the season he wasn’t because he was always just a role player on the team. Finally I convinced him that he’s the senior who has been on the team for four years and he had to take over. He finally has and is coming up big.”

MacDonald said he figured before the season that he had to become a bigger part of the squad, but he didn’t know how much until the Hawks started game action.

“I felt like I had to step up,” MacDonald said. “We have some good pieces, but I wasn’t expecting Sam to be out. I knew I had to step up, but not as much as I realized I needed to when the season started.”

He said he is “trying to think smarter and find better shots,” but Moutinho thinks MacDonald’s strong play has more to do with his confidence.

“He’s convinced himself that he’s good enough to compete with everybody else,” Moutinho said. “He has enough talent but he used to get intimidated by the other players. I finally convinced him that he’s just as good as anyone else and he’s finally showing it.”

MacDonald’s best game came last Friday when he scored two goals, including the game-winner midway through the second half, in Woodland’s 3-2 victory over Ansonia.

Nobody among the Hawks denies that this season is more of a building year toward next season, but this is MacDonald’s last go-around. He said, though, that he is excited to help the team improve this year so it can get back to the position it held over the last two seasons.

“We’re trying to stay positive,” MacDonald said. “This team is really young, and I think the next few seasons could be rough if we don’t keep it positive. I think this team is going to be great next year. I think they will be contenders in the NVL.”

After he graduates high school, MacDonald plans on enlisting in the navy.

“School isn’t really my thing, and my grandfather (Tom) was in the navy,” MacDonald said. “I didn’t really know what to do, and my mom told me I should look into the military.”

While he’s there, his Woodland boys soccer team may draw upon his senior season to get back to the level of the last few years. Moutinho said MacDonald will be a big reason for it.

“I think he’s going to be bragging about the winning nucleus that he’ll leave behind for next year,” Moutinho said. “I think he’s excited about that.”