Last August, O'Connell soccer Coach Kelvin Joseph predicted his Knights would be the dominant private-school team in the Washington area, and spent the rest of the season paying for that statement.

"People thought I was boasting, but I was only being honest," said Joseph. "Everybody wanted to beat O'Connell. Even the referees chastised me. I think we'll have another good team this year, but I'm leery about making those kinds of statements."

O'Connell finished with a 17-4 record and won the Metro A Conference title, but the Knights were knocked out in the first round of the Washington Metropolitan Independent Soccer League (WMISL) tournament.

O'Connell returns several key players, including senior midfielders Eddie Azcarate and John O'Brien, two of the area's best playmakers. All-state forward Chris Foster is the team's scoring threat.

Ken O'Shea and Ricky Whitson will anchor the defense, and Luis Lopez, a backup in 1982, will start in goal.

Good Counsel will be O'Connell's top competition. The Falcons return 14 players from an 11-8-5 team, including all-Met sweeper Chuck Peck, center back Bob Norris, and goalkeeper Joe Brewer. The midfield is weak, but Mark Hoder (10 goals) and sophomore Ron Migoya are dependable strikers.

De Matha, which finished with a surprising 14-4-2 record last year, will also be tough. The Stags graduated nine players but return wings Kyle Waters, a 26-goal scorer, and Franz Kebreau. Senior midfielder Bobby Vichich is De Matha's playmaker, but the team lacks experience on defense and in goal.

Gonzaga, which won the WMISL tournament, St. John's and Carroll will also challenge.

In the WMISL, Yorktown has an experienced side. Forwards Nick Georgeavis and Haitham Kalteh can score, and Les Buday has shown promise in the midfield. Four-year starter Frederic Pierre-Bell and Raymond McQuillan anchor the defense, and senior Richard Gramzow will likely start in goal.

Washington-Lee, which lost in the finals of the WMISL tournament, returns high-scoring forward Culver Fortener, and Bishop Ireton has a veteran team.

Maret, the Metro B League champion last year, has moved up to the A league, but should be competitive. The Frogs finished 18-0-3 last year and return all-Met fullback Alex Ooms, one of the area's quickest defenders. Forward Andy Nottidge should lead the offense and Adams Holman, a junior, will start in goal.

In the Metro B League, the German School should again be the top team, and will be challenged by the French School and St. Anselm's.

In the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC), Landon will again be the team to beat. The league and tournament champion last year with a 15-2 record, the Bears return four-year starter Tom Frangione at sweeper and junior Chris Karp at center back. Senior Jeff Brown will start in goal after playing in reserve last year, and left wing Kaluma Zulu, a 12-goal scorer, will lead the offense.

Bullis, which lost to Landon in the final of the tournament despite a 3-12 record, will also challenge. Forward Luis Jaramillo is one of the most talented players in the area, and midfielder Kevin Vasco passes well. Goalkeeper Joby Bishop, a four-year starter, returns in goal. Georgetown Prep, a surprise team in 1982, Episcopal and St. Stephen's will also contend.

Queen Anne won the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference with a 16-3-1 record last year, and returns 10 starters. Roy Edelschein has been moved from sweeper to the striker position, and Geoff Haskell and Todd King will anchor the midfield. Sophomore Frank Kratovil, a 5-foot left wing, is quick and scored 10 goals. On defense, Todd Roderiguez is the sweeper and Geoff Fettus is in goal.

St. Andrew's graduated seven players from a 12-3 squad, but is strong in the midfield. Halfback Lance Freeman is one of the best free-kick specialists in the area and scored 12 goals last year. David Bowen and Javier Ortiz will lead the defense, and freshman Scott McDonnell will start in goal.

Sandy Spring, Model and Pallotti are also expected to field solid teams.