Shady Side Academy coach James Meara knows what he likes to see on a soccer pitch.
Years of professional experience in his native England as a midfielder with Watford F.C. and Doncaster Rovers has allowed him to develop a philosophy that he's been able to apply as a coach in the United States.
Besides positive results -- something the Section 2-AA leaders have had many of this season -- what he strives for and enjoys seeing is positive play.
In three years with the Indians, Meara has emphasized on-field awareness, speed of play and quickness in possession, all with the goal of creating an attractive and effective scheme.
"Speed of play and awareness are the major differences," he said of what typifies his coaching style. "Awareness is knowing where to play, where the next pass is going to go. Taking two touches and three touches can make a great difference in the way of moving the ball in soccer."
When Shady Side Academy has the ball, the intent is to move it quickly and effectively before the opposition can react. It's a skillful form of play and one that's difficult to master.
But those lessons have settled in with the Indians over time, and this year's experienced roster -- featuring 10 returning starters -- has played an often devastatingly effective brand of soccer.
"The passing, the moving, it's not always easy to develop that connection within a team. We've gotten better at it, especially a number of the younger players," Meara said. "But I always say I like to be entertained watching the game as well [as win]."
At 10-2 overall and 9-0 in the section, Shady Side Academy definitely has won, and now looks likely to capture a section title for the first time since moving to Class AA in 2010. Fourth-place Mars Area (7-5, 4-4) had won the Section 2-AA title in four of the previous seven seasons.
What's even more impressive is that the Indians are actually playing up a classification. Meara said the team's varsity roster only numbers 17.
"It's something a lot of WPIAL teams don't do," he said. "I think that gets forgotten.
Last Saturday's 3-1 victory against the Planets solidified the Indians status as Section 2-AA front-runners.
Meara highlighted seniors Evan Brazinski, Chinedu Okoroafor and Daniel Marous as vital components of the team's success.
"They're solid players, phenomenal athletes," he said. "We've got great leaders, which obviously helps."
Sophomore outside midfielder Grayson "Gray" Garrard is also an impact player on attack.
Shady Side Academy typically operates out of a 4-4-2 alignment that's given some flexibility in deployment, often switching to a 4-4-1-1. On defense and while battling in midfield, the formation can be relatively rigid. But attacking in the final third, players are afforded ample freedom to innovate.
The Indians have scored at least two goals in each of their wins, and average more than 3.5 goals per game.
"Everyone knows their job on the field," Meara said. "And keeping the ball on the floor at the tempo we play, we're able to get a lot of good movement."