Eisenhower senior Joseph Chirco fires a shot against Utica on Sept. 8 at Swinehart Stadium.

Eisenhower senior Joseph Chirco fires a shot against Utica on Sept. 8 at Swinehart Stadium.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

‘Well-rounded’ Eisenhower soccer team looking to take next step

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Shelby-Utica News | Published September 18, 2023

 Eisenhower senior Alban Bojovic slides in to get the ball from a Utica player.

Eisenhower senior Alban Bojovic slides in to get the ball from a Utica player.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — For the past three seasons, Eisenhower High School boys varsity soccer has been a team that the majority of schools don’t want to play when reaching the state tournament.

Winning back-to-back district titles and reaching the district finals last year, Eisenhower knows how to live up to the bright lights, but now the team is focused on taking the next step.

It’s difficult to navigate through the state tournament while playing state championship contenders, as Eisenhower (8-1-1) did last season when it lost in the district finals to eventual state champion Rochester Adams, but those are the types of teams that Eisenhower will have to face to get there.

“From day one, we talked about how now that they have more experience, hopefully they learned from the mistakes they made last year during the playoffs against Adams,” Eisenhower coach Mehrdad Nekoogar said. “Hopefully we can improve based on that.”

Well, there’s nothing like getting a crack at one of those teams right out the gate, and it just happened to be Rochester Adams when the two teams squared off Aug. 25.

Adams got the better of Eisenhower, 2-0, Eisenhower’s only loss this season, but there was a visible difference between this season and last season’s matchup.

“It’s funny to say that as a coach when you lose a game, but I felt pretty good about that game,” Nekoogar said. “Not that I compared to last year’s score (5-1), because we’re not that team to give up that many goals to anybody, so I looked at the team this year when we played Adams, and even though they beat us and it’s just my perspective, but I thought we had more chances against them than they did (against us).”

Since the loss to Adams, Eisenhower has gone undefeated to hold the top spot in the always competitive Macomb Area Conference Red.

Scoring just under four goals per game and tallying five shutouts so far this season, Eisenhower’s balanced play on the field has been something to watch, and it’s been a team effort on both sides.

“There’s not one person that does more than the other,” sophomore Jonpaul Yatooma said. “Everyone is fair, everyone scores and everyone assists. It just goes around, and everyone is unselfish. When they need to be, they are.”

All-state honoree and senior Jordan Klein headlines the balanced attack alongside seniors Lucas Giacomazza, Niko Demopolis, Marco Ventimiglia, Johnny Gueccia, Devin Chene, Joseph Chirco, Mario Kalaj and Kyle Zelasko. Junior Mario Gjonaj, junior Jason Bruss and Yatooma provide offensive contributions as well.

When teams play Eisenhower, there’s more to worry about offensively than two or three guys on the field.

“I feel like our team is really well-rounded,” Chene said. “We have some great wingers, everyone is quick, everybody can shoot, and I just feel like we move the ball around really well. It’s hard to have just one player to play through.”

Junior Vincent Talerico has been sensational in net this year behind a strong Eisenhower back line, and they seem to be getting better as the season continues.

Currently first in the MAC Red with a 2-0-1 league record and a little less than half of the season left, Eisenhower will look to continue its regular season success and carry it into the state tournament. The last time it won the MAC Red was 2019.

Eisenhower will have another tough district draw this season, but Zelasko said the guys know what to expect.

“I think this year we’re definitely more prepared for the district,” Zelasko said. “We have Romeo, Utica and Adams all in our district, but we’ll be ready for them.”