"A lot of these young kids have a lot of talent. They just need to be led," Brotman said. "We are just trying to find ourselves, get on our feet, see who should play where. It wasn't easy, but we are getting there."
A freshman, the fast and technically savvy Juan Castillo, starts up top for Abington (1-0). Two sophomores, Connor Gallagher and Aidan Coyle, also start, and three other sophomores see significant playing time.
The rest of the roster might be filled with upperclassmen, but most of them will be seeing significant varsity minutes for the first time.
"A lot of these kids are going to make first-year mistakes, but they are going to grow as the season goes on and we are going to get better," coach Randy Garber said.
Last year, the Ghosts finished fourth in the Suburban One League's National Conference, behind Neshaminy, Council Rock South, and Pennsbury. But that didn't stop Abington from defeating the Redskins and Falcons during the district tournament, along with heavily favored Central Bucks South.
It was a matter of timing, Howard said, of coming together at the right time in the season. Horn and Brotman agreed, saying the Ghosts had confidence in each other when not many others did.
"It was something," Brotman said. "It was our spirit. We didn't care about what we were called or what people thought. That's how I think we should play this year."
The Ghosts' path to defending their district title won't be easy, especially considering their difficult schedule includes a rematch with C.B. South and contests with Central Bucks East and Souderton.
"I enjoy the competition. I think most of the guys do," Howard said. "If we were in a not-as-competitive conference, we wouldn't see as much and we wouldn't be able to improve more as a team."
Brotman, Horn, and Howard agree that the team's top priority right now is developing chemistry on the field. That level of comfort isn't there yet, they acknowledge, especially since the lineup isn't fully solidified.
"We have been moving around. I started on defense," Horn said. "We had forwards playing midfield. Right now, we still don't know what our positions are. We are moving stuff around."
With Abington trailing by two goals during the first half of its season opener Friday against Wissahickon, the chemistry problem was apparent. Then Horn scored a second-half goal, setting things in motion for the Ghosts.
Coyle tied the game with a beautiful header on a perfectly executed set piece, sending the game to overtime, and Matt Bevilaqua, a junior forward, scored the winner just minutes into the extra period.
It might have taken Abington a half or so to find the right combination, but for one game at least, the pieces fit.
Boys' Soccer Players to Watch
Matt Weigner, Central Bucks South. The senior goalkeeper posted double-digit shutouts in each of his last two years with the Titans. His solid play can help South remain atop the Suburban One League's Continental Conference.
Chris Watson, Neshaminy. Another senior goalie, Watson enters his second full season as the Redskins' starter, and expectations couldn't be higher for the athletic keeper and his squad.
Austin Brotman, Abington. The senior goalie impressed for the Ghosts game after game last season, leading them to the District 1 Class AAA championship and the state playoffs.
Ryan Vare, Central Bucks East. Vare, a senior defender, anchored one of the toughest defenses around last year. He and the Patriots should be strong again.
Tim French, Holy Ghost Prep. The senior midfielder was the glue that held the Firebirds' midfield together last season, and he also created numerous scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Charlie Rushing, Pennsbury. Rushing is a senior midfielder and a player who is fun to watch, and his offensive prowess and ability to score goals will help propel the Falcons.
Johnny Ciarlante, William Tennent. In a conference (Suburban One National) loaded with talent, the senior midfielder's impressive offensive ability stands out. He scored 14 goals last year.
Joe Hansen, Father Judge. The attacking center midfielder, a senior, creates space, holds possession, and is a formidable scoring threat, regularly getting the Crusaders on the board.
Thijs Everts, Conestoga. At 6-foot, the senior midfielder is an imposing force in the air for the Pioneers and can be very dangerous in set pieces.
Matt Lucas, La Salle. Extremely fast, athletic, and talented on the ball, this senior forward was the Explorers' top scoring threat last season.
Michael Kirby, Holy Ghost Prep. A junior forward and transfer from Archbishop Ryan, Kirby is a dynamic scorer.
- Kate Harman
Contact Kate Harman