James Barkley now is firmly entrenched as the Urbana boys’ soccer boss, in his second year replacing longtime leader Randy Blackman. Barkley weighed in on his Tigers before this weekend’s Urbana Invitational action:
Your guys started a little later than some other local teams, but opened with a 12-1 win over Rantoul last Tuesday. How are you feeling about this group?
I’m feeling really good. Starting late does feel a bit strange, but the first win was good. The scoreboard, the (12) goals, nine goal scorers and there were nine of those (goals) were assisted goals by six different people. That distribution statistically is kind of ideal for us just based on the fact that we have some depth at each position this year that, I guess, we didn’t have last year.
Who are some of the boys who are standing out?
Miguel Lemus is one of our four senior leaders. He’s definitely been putting in the work, and I see him around town at all the different soccer events that there are to participate in. Seydou Mukadi put in some time at ... camps this summer, kept his touch strong. ... Ivan Mineyev is a really athletic kid and exciting to watch.
After taking over for a coach who had led Urbana soccer since the mid-1980s, how have you seen the players buy in to what you’re offering?
That’s a big deal. Just the idea that nobody likes change, necessarily. ... Last year there was an element of just getting through the year. But people got to know me last year. Returning this year, you build a trust, and so building that trust is important to actually move forward. I think last year was a building year in that capacity. ... I have more trust in them (and) they have more trust in me.Urbana, Champaign Central and Centennial all are off to good starts this year.
What does that say about the state of boys’ soccer on the local scene?
That’s a huge testament, actually, to a cohort of parents around town that have supported their kids with a lot of travel and a lot of expense ... at various levels. It’s great to see that coming to fruition. I am kind of a soccer nut, so I guess I sort of predicted it. I’ve been working with these kids since some of them were 5 years old. It’s one of those things where it’s really nice to see it play out.