Even without its star, McDonogh should continue to shine.
Gone is All-Metro and All-State midfielder Devin Barclay, after the junior withdrew from school and moved to England to pursue a professional career with world-power Liverpool.
While the Eagles (17-3-3 last season) will no doubt miss their under-17 national pool player, who had five goals and a school-record 19 assists a year ago, they still return 10 of 11 starters and have plenty left in the tank for another run through the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
"We don't have the big-time player in Devin, but we do have a lot of kids battling for spots," said McDonogh coach Steve Nichols, who begins his sixth year after advancing to the league title game against Archbishop Curley last fall. "We're usually hurting for depth, so we feel pretty good about that this year."
The Eagles feature All-Metro senior striker Kaiser Chowdhry, who Nichols calls "one of the top three strikers in the country." Last season, Chowdhry racked up 17 goals and eight assists.
They also return national pool midfielders Brian Yi and Kile McHugh, both sophomores, fifth-year senior midfielder Dan Lehr and four-year starter Lance Staib, a center-midfielder. Defensively, the team is led by senior center-fullback Doug Kurz, and three-year starter Seth Franz (who also scored 10 goals last season).
Look for McDonogh to battle it out with Loyola for first place, with Calvert Hall and defending champion Archbishop Curley right on their heels.
Loyola (11-5-4), which posted a school-record 11 shutouts a year ago and advanced to the league semifinals, again contend. Though the Dons graduated five starters, they return plenty of ammunition, including first team All-Metro and All-State fullback Mike Lookingland, fullback Tim DiPino, marking back Chase Franklin and their second leading scorer, sophomore striker Kevin Mezzadra.
"We are talented and deep," said Loyola coach Don Kraft. "Our goal is to win the MIAA, but it's a very tough league."
Coach Andy Moore should also field a powerful squad at Calvert Hall (8-9-1), which finished fourth last season before losing to Curley in the semifinals.
The Cardinals return 13, including three three-year varsity standouts in all-league midfielder Mike Pennacchia, midfielder Justin Layfield and Jim Fendryk, all seniors. Though they must replace All-Metro midfielder Mike Joseph, optimism is running high.
In the B Conference, St. Paul's figures to slug it out with defending champion Friends, Boys' Latin, Gilman, St. Mary's and Severn.
St. Paul's (17-4-2), which lost to Friends in last year's conference final, could have another strong year if all the pieces fall into place. The Crusaders lost some of their top players to graduation, including their three-year starting goalie.
Seniors Reed Bouchelle (midfielder), Jack deVilliers (stopper) and Tyler Tracy (striker) top the list of returners, while junior midfielder P. K. Fisher, a transfer from McDonogh, and senior Mike Mitchell, who will take over in goal, also figure to play prominent roles.
Boys' Latin (10-6-2), which lost to St. Paul's, 2-1, in last year's tournament semifinals, returns most of its lineup, including a strong and experienced back line.
The defensive unit features junior goalie Matt Tielsch, and a trio of seniors in halfback J. J. Laseta, fullback Mitch Hendler and Will Shearer, who will split his time between fullback, halfback and goalie. Senior Greg Wiatrowski is the top striker on offense.
Park (2-11-1) should be more athletic than a year ago, but after scoring just 15 goals all of last season, is still searching for a finisher on offense. The team, which will start mainly underclassmen, features midfielder Paul Levin, sweeper James Kaiser and midfielder Chris Kiehne.
In the MIAA C Conference, Mount Carmel (21-0-1) should again be a force with three returning all-conference players -- striker Chris Daniloski, sweeper Evan Williams and midfielder Daxton Bury -- as well as an honorable mention pick in midfielder Andrew Ganzzermiller.
Beth Tfiloh (6-10-1) should be a playoff contender with eight returning seniors and an infusion of freshmen and sophomores with club experience. Forward Shannan Meyerstein and midfielders Eliot Burkom and Chanan Weisman will be scoring threats.
Lutheran (13-6), which lost to Mount Carmel in the conference finals, again should challenge for the top spot with the return of goalie Adam Ernst and forward Peter Miller, who led the team with 19 goals.
Towson Catholic, near the bottom of the league a year ago, has a new coach, Eric Dorries, who believes the team has some talent, and that it's a matter of developing it. Top players will include senior Adam van Eron, son of former Baltimore Blast goalie Keith, and junior Phil Hahn.
Among Baltimore County public schools, Dulaney and Franklin again figure to lead Division I.
Dulaney (15-1-1), which tied Churchill in last year's Class 4A state title game, lost nine seniors, including three of four defenders and first team All-State and All-Metro midfielder Mike Hoeck. But don't start feeling sorry for coach Steve Shaw just yet.
"It will take awhile for them to come together and jell, but that's roughly where we were this time a year ago," said Shaw, who added his squad's biggest problem is depth.
Leading the way will be a pair of seniors in second team All-State striker Jonathan Newton and all-county midfielder Jay Sasiadek. Also look for big years from senior midfielders Kevin LaHatte and Adam Brinch, as well as senior defender Craig Frey.
One team that always gives Dulaney fits is Franklin (13-3), which has handed them the Lions their first loss each of the past two seasons.
The Indians, who split the county title with Sparrows Point before losing to Fallston in last year's regional finals, return all but four starters, and filled in adequately at the other spots. They are particularly strong on offense, where senior Chris Borcik and junior Matt Schuster lead the way. The team also features a pair of standout center-midfielders in sophomore Dan Borcik and junior Kosta Fleytman, and a solid keeper in senior Andy Schuster.
At Patapsco (10-2-1), coach Dave Ingle believes it will be a fun year. Though the Patriots must replace one all-state and two all-county players, they return eight starters, including seniors Eric Augustyniak (goalie) and Darrin Sprouse (striker), and juniors Ronnie Wood (striker) and Joe McCauley (halfback).
Eastern Tech returns just five from last year's 12-3-1 squad that finished the season ranked No. 14, but supplements its lineup with players from the county champion JV team.
Junior Powell Cucchiella is a polished finisher at striker and third-year varsity midfielder Joe Freburger is a top distributor with a nose for the goal.
Another team looking to make noise is Dundalk (7-6-1), which hopes to ride its senior-dominated defense to low-scoring wins. The Owls are led by senior defenders Scot Roppelt, B. J. Parker, Donny Maxwell and Shane Smith, as well as senior Sam Depasquali, an all-county candidate at midfield.
Kenwood (7-3-5) is young, but full of potential. The Bluebirds lost seven starters to graduation, including their all-state goalie, but had 50 players come out for the team. Included in the lot are junior striker Timmy Maans, junior midfielder Tom Hanlin and sophomore Matt Llufrio, who either will play striker or goalie.
Catonsville (7-10), which rallied from early-season injury woes to advance to the regional final, hopes to pick up where it left off. The team is led by seniors Amos Whitney (back), Tim Favinger (midfield) and Dave Tracht (midfield/back).
After graduating most of its team, Loch Raven (8-7) will be young, but could be good in time. Seniors Blake Mobley (center-halfback) and Tyler Ramsey (goalie), as well as junior sweeper Sam Scheulen figure to provide most of the punch.
Carver (3-10) should be more competitive with the return of top scorer Vlad Smolkin, a junior striker, and top defender Delke Crouthamel, a senior back.
In Division II, county co-champion Sparrows Point (10-6-1) loses four starters, but should fill in adequately with a strong group of juniors that includes halfbacks Chad Tragser and Lamar Porter, fullback Donald Knight and sweeper Sam Nicolette.
Perry Hall (8-3-3), which lost to Dulaney in the regional final, is trying to rebuild after graduating 12 seniors, including three-quarters of its defense. Junior sweeper Jamie Flynn, senior fullback Brent Moorefield and junior midfielder Matt Pszcolka will be strengths.
At Towson (7-4-3), coach Randy Dase has his work cut out for him, though the payoff could be tremendous down the road. The Generals, who lost in last year's regional semifinals, graduated 16 seniors, including the entire defense.
Along with a wealth of young, eager players, however, there are five returning starters including first team all-county midfielder Ryan Valeri and fellow senior Scott McGowan, a midfielder who led the team in scoring as a sophomore before sitting out last season.
There's a lot of change in the air at Parkville (7-3-1), with a new coach in Dylan Aiman and just four returning varsity players. A pair of midfielders in senior Jeff Novotny and junior John Nugent lead the way.
At Pikesville (6-10), coach Craig Campbell is excited about his team's prospects. Who wouldn't be with 14 returning seniors? Among the nine starters back for another year are leading scorer Stephan Cooper, a senior striker who had 17 goals and two assists a year ago, junior halfback Adam Abell, senior fullback Leon Belt and senior goalie Michael Rothstein.
Overlea (5-10), led by senior Mike Drasal and juniors Bryan Bierly, Eric Loewe and Eric Sparzak, should be improved, as well.
Lansdowne (4-8), which made it to the region semifinals after beating City, will again be young. The junior-dominated squad features just three seniors in Jesse Miller (defense), Tom Noble (defense) and Chad Chaffman (goalie/attack).
In the county's Division III, Western and Woodlawn are again the teams to beat.
Western (8-5) is led by three talented seniors in midfielder Cesar Landa, fullback Seth Jablon and forward Warren Drell, while Woodlawn (7-7), though down in numbers, features senior Damien Shrives (forward), senior transfer Robert Bassham (stopper), sophomore Adrian McKain (midfielder), freshman Rufus Berry (forward) and senior goalie Chinedu Ogdonna.
Chesapeake (5-6-1), a young team with just two seniors and two juniors, will be led by Brian Stricklin, Patrick McFadden and Joe Durdono.
At Milford Mill, new coach Kenan McCoy is intent on building a winning tradition. Ten players initially came out for the team, including hard-working senior center-back Alex LaRonde, sophomore striker Christopher Wellington and sophomore striker-midfielder Berry Moore.