Monroe soccer squad still faces challenges

The James Monroe boys’ soccer program hasn’t had much more than bad luck the past few years.

The Eagles went from perennial contender in Bronx A to losing their team altogether in 2006 when then-coach Marvin Carbajal failed to obtain proper CPR, first aid and automatic defibrillator certification.

A revamped Monroe, led by coach Carl Campbell and assistant Dave Manzalaoui, started up anew as a developmental squad last year and now the Eagles are back as a varsity team – but in Bronx B. And they’re still facing more than their fair share of challenges.

Goals ordered back in August did not arrive at the school until Sept. 29 – almost a month into the regular season. Monroe still has a horribly outdated natural grass surface, where true hops rarely are found. And Monday, the Eagles had to forfeit a game based on a PSAL loophole – Campbell misplaced the team’s roster on the subway en route to Van Cortlandt Park to play Riverdale/Kingsbridge.

Somehow, through all of this, after an impressive 7-0 win over South Bronx on Wednesday at home, Monroe finds itself at 6-3-1 with a very good chance at making the playoffs.

“I think things have gone very well for us,” said Campbell, who couldn’t even lead the team in practice until more than midway through September after injuring his Achilles playing soccer in his native Jamaica over the summer. “I’m quite satisfied with how things have happened.”

The program’s prospects are definitely looking up for the Eagles. For one, they actually have goals now. (They had to switch home games with division-leading John F. Kennedy before those came in.) Campbell said trying to teach corner-kick defense without the structures was useless.

Starting next year, a $1.5 million renovation to the school’s athletic facilities will bring a brand new, field turf surface and possibly even lights, which will be used primarily by the school’s national powerhouse baseball team.

Monroe is led by two players who will be with the program for at least the next year. Junior Mamadee Kamara has 15 goals after being academically ineligible to play last year and freshman Christian Barrera, who could be one of the best players in the Bronx – ‘A’ or ‘B’ – in a few years, has 10.

Of course, the main goal is to get back to Bronx A, where Monroe, in many ways, rightfully belongs. There’s no telling how long that might take, but if the Eagles have made it through all these setbacks it would be hard to bet against them making it back to the top division.

“The team’s gonna get better,” said Mike Turo, Monroe’s athletic director and baseball coach. “We want to get back to the ‘A.’”

Monroe, soccer

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