Posted: 5:04 pm Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Injuries could derail American Heritage girls soccer streak 

By Jason Lieser

Steve Burgess might be the area’s most arrogant, outspoken coach in any high school sport — and that reputation does not bother him.

So if Burgess believed he had a championship-caliber team, he’d say it. Instead, when I asked him Wednesday if his team was capable of reaching its seventh straight state title game, he answered:

“Do we have enough this year? Who knows? It’s not a lack of confidence. It’s just a reality of the situation we’re in with injuries. We’ll see.”

At least seven players suffered significant injuries this year, but the Stallions still managed to finish the regular season 16-2-3.

Karina Rodriguez and Alle Salerno each went down early in the season with ACL injuries.

Christina Cobb, a senior who is committed to Florida State, has dealt with ongoing ankle issues. A back injury limited Melissa Bergstein’s playing time and Burgess has been cautious with Tara McNab as she tries to play through shin splints. Sara Coy has been hampered by a pulled hamstring.

Alex Taylor, a seventh grader who was thrust into action due to the rash of injuries, broke her finger against Archbishop McCarthy last week and Burgess expects her to miss at least another week of matches.

The setbacks have forced Burgess to realign his offense and result has been a diminished scoring attack for American Heritage. The Stallions still look solid defensively — they did not allow a single shot on goal in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Jensen Beach and they still have all-area goalkeeper Sam Perretty — but the offense looks like a diluted version of what the team has had the past few seasons.

“We’ve had to change our system so I’m not putting too many square pegs in round holes,” Burgess said. “The formation and system we’re playing right now is not my preferred formation, but we’re having to do it. Ultimately, we’re playing with one less forward than we would normally play with.

“We’re doing a good job of taking a high percentage of the chances we create … but at some point, you know you have to create a little bit more.”

The Stallions scored on three of their seven shots on goal against Jensen Beach.

American Heritage has played in each of the past six state championships. They won titles in 2004 and ’06.

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