By Jim Sullivan
---- — After breaking out for 19 goals in his sophomore year and 16 in his all-league junior season, Adam Traxler has more than made a name for himself as a legitimate threat in the Cape Ann League.
But after losing eight Newburyport teammates in the wake of the Clippers’ Division 3 semifinals appearance last November, including a good portion of their midfield, Traxler is now taking on extra duties, switching between offensive-center midfield to forward.
“If we can control the pace of the play, we will keep him up forward,” Clippers soccer coach Shawn Bleau said of Traxler. “If we’re having trouble controlling the play a little bit, we may have to move him back to help out a little bit.”
Lucky for the Clippers, they also have junior Tom Graham holding down the fort at forward, making for a nice one-two punch. Graham broke out in tandem with Traxler for 13 goals himself last season, enough to be named a runner-up all-star and co-captain this year along with Traxler and John Spears.
“Tom turned the corner last year when Adam went down with an ankle injury,” said Bleau. “Then he put three goals in against Lynnfield down here, and that was huge. Then he kept scoring after that. Once he got that confidence there, he stepped up.”
Both players stepped up nicely at Cherry Hill yesterday, in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against North Reading.
“You’ve got to pick your poison,” said Bleau. “It’s hard to contain the both of them.”
Traxler scored Port’s first goal of the season 25 minutes into the second half. Down 1-0, he took a feed in heavy traffic from Nate Campbell and buried it deep on the left side. Not to be outdone, Graham scored the game-winner with three minutes to go on a breakaway, assisted by Traxler.
“He always finds his way to get big goals,” Traxler said of Graham. “We have confidence in him. I know that he is going to bury.”
“We’re really looking to ping it up the field fast,” said Graham. “Chip it over the top or down the side so I can just beat the defender and either cross it in or get a shot.”
One of the problems with having an explosive forward is that he can often draw double- or triple-coverage as Traxler did the second time teams faced him last year. But this move between midfield and forward may be the answer to that equation.
“You can’t double-cover a midfielder,” said Traxler. “But you can double cover a forward. It gives us a chance to confuse them a little bit.”
“It gives me a little bit more room to work,” Graham said of having Traxler in the midfield. “But I’m really just looking to get a good shot, quick or cross it in.”
“I just wanted to get more involved in the game,” said Traxler. “I wanted to help my team out a little bit more. I feel like I could play a little bit more defense and work a little bit harder for my team.”
Another ray of light yesterday was goalkeeper Shudee Wu, who had 15 saves and managed to keep the Clippers in the game until his offense dialed in.
“That was probably one of the top five goalkeeping performances I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching,” Bleau said.