Top-ranked West Allegheny puts scoring to the forefront with help from all-state defender
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Zach Graziani may play defense for the West Allegheny boys soccer team, but that doesn't diminish his role in the Indians' offense.
Part of the last line of defense in West Allegheny's unique 3-4-3 alignment — as opposed to a 4-4-2, with four defenders and two forwards — having Graziani enables the Indians to emphasize offense.
“He's that foundation you play off of,” West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos said of Graziani, a returning all-state player and Division I recruit. “We play a unique formation with him in the back, and he can really shut down the forwards that they have up top.
“That frees up an extra player to play in the midfield or up top.”
Good thing, too.
Top-ranked West Allegheny has jumped out to a 7-0 start, including a 3-0 mark in Section 5-AA, by relying on an offensive philosophy that Amos described as “guns blazing.”
It's one that helped the Indians score 69 goals in 18 matches last year. Already West Allegheny has 24 goals this fall.
“There's the idea that defense wins championships, and I get that,” Amos said. “But if you get a couple breaks and score a key goal, you make it really tough on a team that's defensive-minded to try and come out of that mindset and play offense.”
One of Graziani's primary responsibilities is organizing his team's defense. His smarts and athleticism are so special that only a handful of teams use the 3-4-3.
“For me, it comes down to making sure everything around me is kind of in control,” Graziani said.
Amos hopes Graziani and a turbo-charged offense are enough to push the Indians past the WPIAL quarterfinals, where their season has ended the past two years.
“Our coaches are always reminding us about the WPIAL quarterfinals,” junior forward Collin Wurst said. “It gives us motivation to get past that.”
West Allegheny, which has allowed two goals so far, returns eight starters from last year's 15-win team that shared the Section 5-AA title with Quaker Valley.
Wurst, a 20-goal scorer in 2012, leads the group with nine goals and three assists. Classmate Mike Cummings has seven goals and eight assists, and Cooper Amos has seven assists. Pat Harmon, Kyle McCracken and Nick Jaroszynski have three goals apiece.
But as strong as West Allegheny's offense has been, it's tough to focus on the Indians' without starting with Graziani, whose list of college suitors includes Duquesne, Robert Morris, Marshall, West Virginia, Radford and Lafayette.
Graziani is flanked by fellow seniors Josh Kolarac and Levi Bergset, an exchange student from Norway. Spencer Wolfe is a three-year starter at goalkeeper and has 22 saves, five shutouts and one goal allowed.
“We're lucky to have three seniors defenders and a senior goalkeeper,” Graziani said.
Lucky to have the luxury of focusing on scoring because West Allegheny knows Graziani will hold things down in the back.
“It's definitely a compliment, not just toward me but for the other defenders and midfielders,” Graziani said. “I appreciate (Amos') trust, but it's also a lot of responsibility. We know we can play more on offense if we do our jobs.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wolf says he’ll work with state legislature to deal with pension woes
- Officials to limit tailgating before Jason Aldean concert at PNC Park
- Pittsburgh mayor promotes 3 officers, 2 firefighters
- Green Tree company’s complaint ends with settlement of false claims lawsuit
- Federal appeals court deals blow to Affordable Care Act
- Strong demand drives East End apartment developers to expedite next project
- UPMC McKeesport president reiterates hospital will remain open
- Rossi: Liriano no ace, but he’s Bucs’ key
- McCandless residents voice opposition to Wal-Mart plan
- Moody’s downgrades Pa. rating; Corbett ponders pension reform session
- Derry Township assault suspect arrested