BRUNSWICK — Kyle Fletcher doesn’t just have a nose for the net.
He’s got a head for it. He has a deft touch in his feet. He’s got the natural skills of a scorer and the fierce determination of a finisher. And he's only beginning his junior year.
Now a veteran, Fletcher is trying to make his game even more versatile. He’ll still get his goals, but as teams sharpen their focus on stopping him, the Monmouth standout knows he needs to be a better overall player.
“I feel like I’m smarter off the ball and making better runs,” Fletcher said. “I’m stronger and faster. Last year, I was looking up to some other players and now not so much.”
Fletcher is emerging as more than just the team’s top scorer. He’s becoming a leader and a player that teammates look to. While the opposition keys on him, so will teammates to help make things happen.
“It’s easier to talk to other kids and tell them things that can help them,” Fletcher said. “When you’re a sophomore or a freshman, it’s harder to do that with people your own age.”
Fletcher knows he can have success by just his own skills and ability to finish. Part of his evolvement as a player this year will be to help the players around him. Fletcher saw many double teams last year, which often stymied the Mustang offense.
“That happened to us last year a lot,” said Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher, Kyle’s father. “He was double-teamed a lot, and we stood and watched a lot. We’ve talked and talked about when he has possession, people have to keep moving and good things will happen. Then it is up to him to place the ball where it needs to be.”
Kyle is learning to work with the players around him and developing a knowledge and understanding of their games.
“I’m trying to get to know them a little better, especially their speed, what they can do and what they can’t do” Kyle said. “I want to work with what they can do.”
Fletcher is closing in on the all-time goal scoring record at Monmouth. He enters this fall with 32 goals. Chris McCabe has the record with 42, while Connor Crawford has 41. Those records are about a decade old.
“It would be nice, but right now, I just want to win,” Kyle Fletcher said.
The record is a likelihood for Fletcher, especially with the skills he possesses. Being a complete player and making the team more effective is the priority. If that goal is achieved, the goal scoring record will come. So will a playoff berth that has eluded the Mustangs in recent years.
“It’s been a goal for a while, and he’s worked hard at it,” said Joe Fletcher. “But we want teamwork first, and he knows that. I’ve stressed that at practice and at home. It needs to be within the framework of the team.”
Losing Nick Trenholm in the midfield is a significant loss for the Mustangs. Monmouth also graduated defenders Kyle Brown and Ben Woodman. In stressing balance offensively, Joe Fletcher hopes some other scorers can emerge to play off Kyle. Senior Devin West, who has missed time in preseason with an injury, is one of those players that could emerge this season. Sophomores Noah Bates, Josh Neal, Mason Clement and Kasey Clement are a group that could help bring balance up front.
Coach Fletcher says that players will have to react well, and move effectively without the ball.
“They understand that between Kyle and Devin, most of the time, the ball is going to be at their feet,” said Joe Fletcher. “They have to move without the ball.”
He says it also means that Kyle will have to move well too, even if he’s double teamed. He’s been encouraged to make more diagonal runs. Kyle struggled to do that in past seasons but is getting the hang of it now.
“He’s always had a knack for scoring, but he sees that this game can be easier if he can dish it out and spread things out,” said Joe Fletcher.
Being able to spread the field and expand the offensive attack will put pressure on the opposition and take pressure off Fletcher.
“I know if I’m having a bad day and I can’t do anything, someone else is there to pick the team up,” said Kyle.
It also makes life easier for the defense. That should be the strength for Monmouth this fall. The Mustangs hope to keep teams off the board and let the Monmouth offense produce at its pace. Seniors Drew McFarren and Russell Neal anchor the defense in front of sophomore keeper Casey Smith.
“Our big focus this season is defense,” Joe Fletcher said. “If we can shut teams down, we’ll have chances. Kyle will score some goals. If we can win games 2-1 or 1-0, we’ll be okay.”