Soccer player

Herald’s Boys Football Player of the Year: Caden Kaasa

Caden Kaasa set the tone in the season opener.

The Monroe High School senior showed his superior scoring ability by scoring all three goals as the Bearcats boys’ soccer team beat Redmond 3-0.

It was just the start of a flurry of goals that led to a record-breaking season for the talented striker.

Kaasa had four hat tricks, scored two or more goals nine times and scored or assisted on a goal in 18 of Monroe’s 23 games. He finished the season with a school-best 29 goals and 10 assists, giving him one foot in 51.3% of the team’s 76 goals.

His efforts helped the Bearcats pull off a dramatic turnaround with a third-place finish in the Class 3A State Tournament.

For his record-breaking senior season, Kaasa is the Herald’s 2022 Men’s Soccer Player of the Year.

“The way he’s multi-faceted as a person also vibrates with his athletic ability,” Monroe coach Korey Hope said. “Just in his athletic ability, he obviously has the speed, but I think he’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen and certainly ever coached at that age.”

Kaasa’s athleticism and knowledge of the game have been on display throughout the season. The 5ft 11in striker has shown he can score in a variety of ways, whether creating shots for himself, finding the right space in defense to open up or anticipating passes before ‘they don’t happen.

And one of the things that made Kaasa such a killer scorer was the seamless connection he had with longtime friend and Bearcat forward Josh Gunter.

Gunter, who had a school-record 21 assists this season and was a doubles partner with Kaasa on the Monroe boys’ tennis team in the fall, could regularly be seen dishing out a ball through or crosses for Kaasa, and often the results of those connections were cause for celebration for Monroe.

“Caden and Josh have a kind of unspoken language where they always seem to be on the same page on the court,” Hope said. “You add that to their athletic ability, it makes them really difficult to defend. Just two guys up the pitch for us who can completely turn a game around. »

Kaasa scored a school-record 29 goals and added 10 assists, giving him a foot in more than half of his side’s tally. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Throughout the season, Kaasa has shown a propensity for scoring big moments.

After going through a slight dip in scoring late in the regular season, Kaasa scored three goals to help Monroe to a 5-4 win over Everett. And less than two weeks later, he delivered his best performance in what was at the time the biggest game in recent program history.

The Bearcats faced Arlington in the quarterfinals of the 3A District 1 Tournament. It was the first time Monroe had hosted a district playoff game in over a decade. And Kaasa made sure this monumental occasion ended in victory by scoring five goals in a 7-3 victory.

“It just tells you what it’s about,” Hope said. “Biggest game of his high school career, all of our high school runs over the last four years trying to get this program back on its feet. … Until then, that’s what we had worked for. He showed what he could really do and it was really cool to watch.

Of Kaasa’s five goals, one came on an extraordinary solo effort. He recovered a through ball that rolled deep into the corner and was met by two Arlington defenders looking to trap. Kaasa made a move and put the ball between the legs of a defender, ran around the two players to regain possession, immediately took out a pursuing defender and worked his way around another defender before shooting a right-footed laser past the diving goalie for a 6-3 lead.

“It was just a final exclamation point,” Kaasa said. “I remember running right past the crowd and the bench and everyone got up off the bench and hugged me and everything. It was so good.

The eldest tied Monroe’s record for goals scored in a season in a quarter-final game against Seattle Prep. Unsurprisingly, that goal came on a Gunter-to-Kaasa connection.

“We just had good chemistry up front,” Kaasa said. “…Josh has definitely helped me a lot in preparing for those.”

While Kassa has done a lot to impress with his skills on the pitch, what has stood out to his coach the most is his team mentality and character on and off the pitch.

So it came as no surprise to Hope when Kaasa passed up the opportunity for a decent shot in their state semi-final match – one that could have put the single-handed striker in the record books. school – to give another teammate an even better look who put Monroe up 2-0 early in what ended up being a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.

“I have no doubt he didn’t even think about himself for a second,” Hope said. “It’s always team first – what’s best for the team right now here? It’s definitely the first box he ticks when making decisions on the pitch .

Kaasa said he was just trying to win, but his teammates still gave him a little rebuke for letting the shot go.

“Everyone was like, ‘What are you doing? You just have to take it and be more selfish,’” Kaasa said. “…I didn’t really think about the record at that time. “

In the match for third place the following day, Kaasa broke the tie by putting Monroe in the lead 3–0 against Bainbridge Island. He added another goal later to take his tally to 29.

And while the individual achievement of setting a school record is certainly an achievement Kaasa will never forget, the way the season unfolded around his record-breaking performance made it even more significant.

Monroe only won three games in 2019 when Kaasa and many of his close team friends were freshmen. It was another losing season for a program that had been struggling for years. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season, and the 2021 campaign was played without a playoffs, which was a blow for a team that gave a glimpse of what they were now capable of accomplishing. during an 8-1-1 spring.

The Bearcats continued to build on that success this season, finishing with an 18-4-1 record and reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2002. Their third place state trophy is the second best result in the program’s history.

“It made it even better because of the quality of our performances and the fact that I was able to get this (record) and add to an almost perfect season,” Kaasa said.

Kaasa is expected to attend Boise State University in the fall and currently has no plans to play football at the senior level. But he is always open to the opportunity if it arises.

For now, he’s still soaking up a storybook ending to his glittering high school football career.

“I thought about it a lot and thought how proud I am and how awesome it was to go on this journey and everything we went through, going from last to almost first,” Kaasa said. “It was just great to be part of this team and to go this far for our last season.”