“Good Vibes” and Wins for Soccer in Puerto Rico

Over the break, the Northwood Soccer team had the pleasure of staying in Puerto Rico from the 23rd to the 29th of January for its spring semester preseason. The boys were involved in intense training sessions and several games and also participated in multiple activities, eating traditional Puerto Rican food and bonding with teammates.

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The trip began in the 8th largest city in Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. On day one of the trip, the boys had the opportunity to practice at the University of Puerto Rico. The soccer team enjoyed the training session under the scorching sun before heading to Rincon Beach after breakfast at the University of Puerto Rico. During their tanning sessions, the boys enjoyed the cool water, fresh coconuts, and warm sun.

Liam Burk ’24, the U19 goalkeeper, described the coconut milk as “the best thing I’ve ever tried” and even took a couple of coconuts with him back to the hotel. The boys then enjoyed a short walk into the city of Mayaguez and selected several local places to eat dinner. They enjoyed burgers, poke bowls, and some traditional spicy rice and chicken. They also walked around a local market, where many purchased handmade bracelets.

On day two, the preseason campaign began with the U19 and U17s playing the Edu Soccer Academy of Mayaguez. The U19s secured a 3-0 victory, while the U17s dominated and secured a 6-1 win. After a successful preseason start and a long practice under the sun, they headed to the beach at Playa Buyé. Many boys played beach soccer, explored the coast, paddle-boarded, and once again collected coconuts and enjoyed the natural sweetness. Cedric Lemaire ’24, a defender for the U19s, explored the coastline and even got close up to a bull! A couple of the boys enjoyed the waves and surfed for a few hours. The boys then walked into town for a traditional Puerto Rican dinner consisting of beans, rice, chicken, and plantain. Traditional Puerto Rican food was a success with the soccer boys, to say the least: they requested that meal many times after that night.

The soccer team then made their way up to the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, for the third day of the trip. After the two-hour drive, the team made its way to “Coto Beach,” which used to be under Spanish rule. The beach had a lot of old structures from the American/Spanish war and had beautiful views. After exploring the beach and climbing rocks, the boys looked at the items the locals were selling. Many bought custom Puerto Rican bracelets, hats, and coconuts. After a long morning, they headed to the hotel and rested for a bit before heading to dinner. Later in the evening, the team split up into groups, went around the local mall for dinner, and explored the stores and surrounding areas.

The soccer team then had to work on their presentations about each chapter of Atomic Habits book by James Clear. The U17 and U19s were split into groups of 8, and each group was assigned a chapter and given two days to present the main concepts of their chapter.

On day four, the team headed to the San Juan National Historic Site near “Old San Juan.” The group explored the 16th-century historical site for about an hour, learning about why the Del Morro Citadel was important and what was significant about all the old structures built by Spanish power. Later that day, the lads went for lunch in preparation for their game against Bayamon FC. They enjoyed some healthy chicken, pork, beans, and rice. After the boys rested at the hotel for a while, they made their way over to the Bayamon facilities for their games. The U17s played the Bayamon U17s and ended up with a 1-1 draw after a hard-fought match. The U19s dominated their game against the Bayamon U20s with a final score of 2-0. Goals coming from Leo Doyle ’25 (17s), Junior Happi ’23 (19s), and Noah Leddel ’23 (19s).

On day five, the boys spent their morning with some recovery work consisting of ice baths, pool time, and some much-needed napping before the U19s game vs. Quintana later in the day. Before the game, the boys ate authentic Puerto Rican food, followed by game-day snacks. The boys suited up against the Quintana pro team, one of the most challenging opponents they have faced this season. The U19s had one of their best performances against Quintana and ended the game with a 2-0 victory. Goals were from Sachiel Ming ’24 and Junior Happi ’23. The level of physicality and mature play was hard to play against at first, but the boys adapted well and played their style of football which were too much for Quintana. Coach John Moodey claimed, “this was the best game I’ve seen you lads play so far this year, and it is a sign of good things to come!” The victory was a clear step in the right direction for the U19s, preparing them for the tough season.

After an excellent recovery session under the sun, the lads headed to a local Puerto Rican golf course on the sixth day. They enjoyed beef ribs, fried chicken, pork, beans, and rice. Later that day, they were given some time to explore the hotel’s surrounding areas and rest up before heading out to dinner at one of the highest-rated authentic restaurants in San Juan. The soccer team enjoyed breaded beef, grilled chicken, plantain burgers, and rice mixed with vegetables.

On the seventh day, the boys presented their Atomic Habits questions in their respective groups. Each group had to act out a skit explaining the themes of their chapter. Each person followed this from the group focusing on a specific element of the chapter and how it relates to daily habits and self-betterment. Six groups presented in total, making sure all areas of the book were covered. Group discussions and questions from the audience followed the presentation. After completing their presentations, the boys headed to Martins BBQ, a Puerto Rican barbeque spot near the hotel. This was their pre-game meal ahead of day 1 of the Combine Sports College Showcase. The U17s kicked off the showcase against Surf Club, dominating possession for most of the game and had many chances on goal but were very unlucky, and the game finished 1-1, with the goal from Mitchell Baker ’25. The U19s kicked off their showcase vs. Ivy League FC. Ivy was organized in their defensive structure, which was a challenge for the U19s. Still, they ultimately broke the deadlock and achieved a 3-0 victory with goals from Jordan Shullenberger ’23, Andreas Viterri ’24, and Ming ’24.

Ahead of their evening games on day 8, the boys enjoyed a morning at Cangrejo Arriba beach, where many tanned, body surfed, played beach soccer, and even had a sandcastle-building competition. The crowned winners of the 2023 Puerto Rico sandcastle competition were Nate Wright ’25, Hamish Riddell ’26, and Trey Frantz ’25, with an impressive life-size sand sculpture of a sea turtle. The previous day, Martin’s BBQ was a hit, so the boys made their way there again and had a nice lunch. The U17s faced the hosts Combine Sports U17 in a much-anticipated game. The match began slowly, but as time went on, the intensity picked up. After a great battle, the U17s prevailed with a 3-2 victory over Combine Sports, with goals coming from Baker ’25 (2), and AJ Etumnu ’25.

Coach Martinez of the U17s described captain Mitchell Baker as “the most consistent player and leader for the U17s all season, and he has not slowed down in his goalscoring.” He also described Leo Doyle as “one of our most consistent players this year, who hasn’t stopped raising his level since the start of the year.”

The U19s also faced Combine Sports U19s in an intense matchup. The Combine U19s were energetic and hungry for the win over Northwood School/Black Rock FC, but the U19s kept their composure and played their style of soccer, which ultimately saw them prevail with the final score of 2-0. Goals came from Ming and Happi. Coach Moodey described the game as “physical and messy, but I am happy that we ground out the result.”

As the trip ended, the boys had breakfast at the hotel for one final time and some downtime before going out for lunch. The boys headed to Borrillos Bayamon, a burrito and quesadilla near the hotel. After a nice, enjoyable Mexican food meal, the boys returned to the hotel to rest up before the final game of their preseason. The U17s faced off against the Bayamon 17s for their final game, looking to get a win since the last encounter ended in a draw. As the game progressed, the Bayamon players continued to employ dirty tactics to throw off the Northwood U17s. The boys stayed disciplined and did not get involved. After a very hard-fought game, the U17s lost 1-3, with their lone goal coming from co-captain Baker. The U19s faced off against Bayamon’s U20 team in the last game of their preseason campaign, hoping to go undefeated by winning all six of their games. Tension was in the air after both teams watched the U17 team’s games, giving the game some meaning. The U19s moved the ball exceptionally well, dealt with opposition pressure as well as possible, and were clinical in front of goal, ultimately leading them to a 3-1 victory, making them showcase champions and undefeated for the Puerto Rico preseason campaign. Goals came from Ming, Sam Knauf ’24, and Leyson Mosquera Losada ’23. Following two hard-fought games, the boys earned a $25 budget for dinner in downtown San Juan near the old city. After a fantastic preseason, the soccer team enjoyed selecting their restaurants and had a great last night.

Coach Martinez praised the U17s team for staying disciplined, executing their play, playing football the right way, having a good response to adversity, going through major learning curves throughout each game, and matching physicality while playing their style of play. He praised co-captain Koah Paye ’24. “Koah had a successful preseason. He held down the defensive line and was rock solid at the back, even though he was playing out of position.” He also praised Diego Green ’25. “Green was the emerging player for the U17s this preseason. He started to play with more confidence, had more consistent games, and looked like he will contribute more in the second half of the season.”

On the U19s side, captain Thebe Mosehathebe ’23 praise the trip. “As a team, we grew in many ways. It was good to get some downtime together. We had good weather, played good soccer, and had good vibes in preparation for our difficult upcoming schedule.” Turner Jackson ’23 said, “what more could we ask for? We had good weather, all wins, good team morale, and we are stepping in the right direction.”

The Northwood Soccer team had a very successful preseason campaign in Puerto Rico and will look to keep that momentum going for the remainder of the year. This trip meant a lot to every one of the players as it was much more than just soccer. It allowed them to know one another better, create lifelong memories, and experience once-in-a-lifetime activities together. It was a great trip and a great way to start the new year.


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