OLYMPIA — As they have gone about advancing farther in the state boys soccer tournament than they have in four years, the Capital High School Cougars have evolved from an offensive powerhouse into a stingy defensive club.
Fortunately for Capital, which meets Sedro-Woolley in the Class 2A state semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at Sumner’s Sunset Chev Stadium, the pieces to score and stop have been in place all season.
Jakob Racimo, the 2A Evergreen Conference’s defensive MVP, was in goal for a pair of 1-0 victories over Anacortes and Kingston in the opening rounds of state.
The Cougars also can turn to sophomore Nigel El-Sokkary, the EvCo offensive MVP, who has found the net 21 times this season and recorded 18 assists.
“I’ve scored a lot of goals, but I’m just the guy putting the ball into the net,” says El-Sokkary, something of a lifelong phenom who played U11 for Black Hills Football Club as a 7-year old.
“There’s always chemistry behind the play. This team is amazing. Every one of these boys could be
man of the match on a given day.”
Capital coach Andrew Lopez points to El-Sokkary’s willingness to blend into the team as the key to his startling offensive numbers.
“Nigel does a great job of not being the central figure,” Lopez said. “He likes to play outside where he can work one-on-one against a defender. He’s a very intelligent player and knows when to shoot and when to pass.”
El-Sokkary’s vision helps him use that intelligence. Asked to name a favorite target of his passes, he listed a half-dozen teammates.
An intriguing background helps account for El-Sokkary’s high soccer IQ. Although he was born in Olympia and his father was a wrestler in his native Egypt, his maternal grandfather is soccer royalty: the Welsh international Mike England, who became a legend with the original Seattle Sounders of the old North American Soccer League after playing with Blackburn, Tottenham and Cardiff City in the English Premier League. He also managed the Welsh national team for eight years.
“He comes over from Wales maybe once a year and sees me play. We talk a lot about the Premier League, and he gives me tips on how I can improve,” says El-Sokkary, who hopes to play professional soccer but is focused on the present as Capital heads into the state final four.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we can win state,” he said. “This is our best squad counting this year, last year, the year before that, maybe even next year. We have so many strong players.”
Perhaps because he has always played with older kids, El-Sokkary has an appreciation for the seniors making their final run at a state title.
“Daniel Pailthorp is a brick wall. He’s an amazing asset, understands the game, knows how to organize our team and motivate us,” he said.
Lopez calls Pailthorp “the spine of our team.”
“Aiden Klemmer (who scored Capital’s goal in the win over Anacortes) sees the field and knows where the ball needs to go. He’s well-rounded and can help on offense or defense. With Jakob, you can see from his performance how much he wants this. He didn’t play last year because he was devoted to football, so this year means a lot to him. He’s great at positioning and tactics; works really well with our back line.”
Capital boasts a defense that hasn’t given up a goal thus far in the state tourney, a sensational sophomore scorer and the chemistry to bring the two elements together. Lopez praises his team for one more quality: devotion to its goals.
“There was a ‘Senior Skip Day’ this week, but every one of our seniors went to every period of their classes and came to practice and kept his focus,” Lopez said.
2A BOYS SOCCER STATE SEMIFINAL
Capital (20-2) vs. Sedro-Woolley (15-4-3)
8 p.m. Friday, Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner
About the Capital Cougars: The 2A Evergreen Conference champions are in the final four for the first time since their fourth-place finish as a Class 3A program in 2010. EvCo offensive MVP Nigel El-Sokkary has 21 goals and 18 assists. EvCo defensive MVP Jakob Racimo (16 shutouts) anchors the defense.
About the Sedro-Woolley Cubs: The Cubs, who finished third in the Class 2A state tournament last year, come at defenses from all sides. Isaac Swenson (13 goals), Kyle Witzel (13) and Nef Camacho (11) have overmatched opponents all season. The Cubs are light on the back end. preps.theolympian.com firstname.lastname@example.org