Chris Harla ’16 started playing soccer at age four when his mom signed him up for the local YMCA league. Back then, Harla was trying many different sports, including swimming and diving, and had no idea just how big a part of his life soccer would become.
“Initially I was scared,” Harla said. However, it did not take long for soccer to become Harla’s most competitive sport. When he was nine years old, he joined his first travel team with Princeton Soccer Association. He soon moved to Princeton Futbol Club, for which he still plays today.
When Harla got to the high school, he became a defender for the freshman team. He credits his strength as a factor that makes him stand out on the field.
“I was always bigger than a lot of the guys, so they put me on defense, and I was really good at kicking the ball pretty far,” Harla said.
His ongoing practice earned him a training spot with the varsity team that year during the postseason, an opportunity that he feels helped him prepare to play at the varsity level in the following years.
“Varsity soccer was much more competitive than freshman soccer, and at the time the team was on their state title run so the intensity … was even higher than it normally would have been,” Harla said.
Harla feels he has come a long way since his freshman year.
“As a freshman I wasn’t … a very technically sound player,” Harla said. “And I think over the years I really worked on my technical skills, my foot skills, and now I am pretty technically sound. I’m able to string a bunch of passes together, take care of the ball pretty well—stuff like that.”
“As a center back [Harla] brings a lot of presence, a lot of awareness to … the back four,” said Head Coach Wayne Sutcliffe. “Technically, he’s a great player. He’s a very skilled player for a defender, more skilled than most.”
Having been a co-captain since his junior year, Harla is looking forward to taking on an even bigger leadership role this season as a senior.
“I think I have a little more leadership responsibility this year,” Harla said. “I know last year it was me and Chase [Ealy ’15], so he kind of was the higher-ranking captain. He did a lot of the warm up stuff, and I’d kind of just follow along with him. But this year I’m doing a lot more of the leading.”
“He can see most of the game most of the time, and so he’s very good at directing, keeping guys on task, and communicating effectively in that regard,” Sutcliffe said.
Leading alongside Pete Luther ’16 and Cole Snyder ’16, Harla hopes to win the Mercer County Tournament again, and also the state championship—an achievement the team almost reached last season.
When his fourth and final season at Princeton High School is over, Harla plans to continue his soccer career in college.