GREEN  The Green Bulldogs were hit hard by the injury bug before the season even began.

With senior midfielders Damjan Djosanovic and Nick Russell both out and at varying states of recovery from torn ACLs in their knees, the Green boys soccer team knew it wouldn’t have the same firepower it hoped to have this fall.

With a 3-4 start overall and 1-1 mark in Federal League play, the won-loss record wasn't where Green would like it to be, but veteran head coach Jason Nelson has seen his team go through an extended growth process in learning who it is without Russell and Djosanovic, who tore his ACL in the team’s first preseason scrimmage.

"I think we’re still kind of going through a learning curve of how to play without two players who have been in starting potions the past two seasons," Nelson said. "We’re finding out what some of our younger players are capable of doing."

Still, Nelson doesn’t believe he and his assistant coaches will have a full grasp on how the team has handled the process until later in the season. The biggest impact up to this point has been on the attacking end of the field, where the two injured players provided plenty of firepower and passing ability.

"We’ve always said that our best defense is our offense. Our ability to maintain possession of the ball and attack teams have kept us from having to defend for long periods of time," Nelson said.

Not having two key pieces has led to fewer scoring chances, but it has also given other players a chance to step up. Nelson credited Riley Damm, a junior midfielder who was a vice captain but was promoted to captain due to the injuries, as one of the players who have upped their game. It’s Damm’s second year as a starter and first in the middle of the field as the go-to player for the offense.

Other players have helped supplement the missing contributions from injured players, including Chris Silvidi, who hasn’t piled up goals but has set up several scores according to Nelson. Senior midfielder Thiago Nardi has been another player who has worked to fill that void and if the early season showed anything, it’s that the Bulldogs need their entire lineup working together for the entire game if they’re going to play with the top teams on their schedule.

"Two of our (first) three losses came to state-ranked opponents we scheduled for that reason and the lessons we learned in those games will benefit us down the road," Nelson said. "We understand this year more than any other year, those lessons are going to be vital for us coming down the stretch. We’re not pleased with our record, but we’re taking it day by day."

Hoover and Jackson have once again established themselves as the top teams in the league standings after Green elbowed its way into the mix the past two seasons, but the dynamics of the season changed with the injuries and forced the Bulldogs to recalculate on the fly. Against a schedule as difficult as most any in the area, they’ve found ways to offset those losses and remain competitive.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB