For 13 seasons, Lou Romao roamed the touchline of the pitch as the head coach of the Olympia High boys soccer team — two for the junior varsity and 11 for the varsity. In those 13 seasons, Romao amassed a record of 102-32-24.
In his 14th season, once again Romao is pacing up and down the touchline, coaching his team in the art of the beautiful game, accumulating wins and teaching his players how to be good young men.
But this time, he’s not donning the Titans’ black and silver. For the 2023-24 season, he has made the 9.1-mile move to Windermere High as the Wolverines’ new boys soccer coach, and he’s brought his culture and winning ways with him.
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In Windermere’s first six games of the season, it not only has won all six, but also it has demolished each opponent. The Wolverines’ combined margin of victory is 35-4, meaning they have scored 35 goals in six games and allowed only four.
This is a Windermere team that lost 14 seniors to graduation from a team that finished 13-2-2 last season and won the district title.
So how have the Wolverines done it? It’s all about believing in the system.
“What has worked so far is the players have bought into the philosophy,” Romao said. “They have bought into what we’ve preached and what I’ve always coached in the past. Having players like this, who are respectful, who are hungry, who want to learn and are willing to be taught … has been one of the biggest reasons for our early success.”
Romao’s philosophy is simple: Bring your lunch pail and get to work.
“We’ve brought that blue-collar work ethic,” he said. “We work hard every day, and we’re humble. We make sure our players understand that nothing in this sport, or in life, is guaranteed. You have to work hard to earn your spot. If you’re on the bench, work hard so you can get playing time. If you are on the field, give everything you have. … In the real world, when you leave high school, you have to give 125%, if not more, into what you do to succeed. The point of this philosophy is that it carries over to how they act off-the-field too, so they can be a good part of society and be good young men in the future. They’ve all bought into that.”
GETTING IT DONE
When it comes to tactics, Windermere’s roster and its new coach are a match made in soccer heaven.
“We basically build from the back,” Romao said. “We get the ball to our players in the middle, and everyone then opens up, so we can spread the defense. We make runs to do that, as well. And of course, we try to get the ball to our wingers because they’re huge weapons for us. … Just look how they’ve played so far. Jose Moyetones had a goal and four assists against West Orange, Arthur (Cavalcanti) had two goals, and Kaike (Maia) had two, as well.”
The style Romao likes to employ requires defenders capable of doing more than what their position’s name implies. To build out from the back, defenders are often at the inception of the attack.
Luckily, the Wolverines have four quality defenders in their starting back line who can do just that. At the fullback spots, captains Nicolas Mujica and Mauricio Ortiz flank the edges in both defense and attack. In the middle, Matias Montenegro and Ethan Guillem patrol the center back spots.
“Our four defenders are top-notch,” Romao said. “To this day, no one has scored on our starters in open play. They’ve only conceded goals via penalty kicks.”
After the ball advances up the pitch from the back line to the midfield, Sebastian Fernandez and Jose Prato make the all-important connecting passes to set up the potent Windermere wingers.
“In general, a huge aspect of our game is just spreading the defense out by staying as wide as we can and using those weapons on the wings by letting them play one-on-one against their defenders,” Romao said. “I will put any of my two wingers against any two fullbacks in all of Orange County — or any part of the state really. That’s how comfortable I feel with them, because they are that quick, that talented, and I’m honestly very fortunate that they’re even here playing high school with us, because these kids are that talented. But our goal is to basically work the ball faster than the defensive player can get to it, and when we have a shot … we don’t wait, we crack the shot as quick as we can.”
One of the aspects that allows Romao to be comfortable with his wingers is the fact that he knows how to play that role from personal experience.
“I love to take on the defender one-on-one and get past them, cross the ball and cut in to score too,” Moyetones said. “ Coach Lou, when he was younger, played on the wing, so he knows how to talk to us about it and how he likes the position to be played. His tactics are incredible for us on the wing.”
The senior has been electric so far this season from the wing for Windermere. He has scored nine goals and assisted 10 more — one shy of his team-leading 10 in 2022-23 and more than triple his three assists.
BEYOND THE PITCH
According to Romao, the success the Wolverines have had goes beyond what his team does on the field.
“The players are willing to fight for (one another),” he said. “They’re willing to fight for their coaches; they’re willing to fight for the program. They strongly believe in what we are bringing as coaches, and they strongly believe in each other. So, I think in the long run, they’ll continue to do this well because they just are all a tight-knit group and have bought into what we’re bringing.”
Just as Romao points to the players and their willingness to fight, the players point right back at their coach.
“Everybody’s on the same page; it feels like we’re all going in the same direction, toward the same goal,” Moyetones said. “That’s why I think one of the biggest parts of our early success is the coaching. Coach Lou keeps us motivated and gives us so much support in everything we need to go out and win every time we step on the field.”
Romao also points in another direction when speaking of his team’s early success.
“The whole administration at Windermere ... is the reason why I strongly believe that our sports programs are so successful,” he said. “The support they give the soccer program, and all the programs really, especially our athletic director — Jillian Sutton is amazing. Jillian should get so much praise in her first year on the job.”
Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics at this email, [email protected] or via Twitter @SamBAlbuquerque