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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Police officer by night, soccer coach by day: girls soccer assistant serves WJ community for 30 years

Courtesy Andy Avillo
Alec Latifov (middle) watches WJ girls varsity soccer battle Whitman in their 2022 regular season conference match. He stood alongside former head coach Joshua Kinnetz (left) and current assistant coach Fumie Takahashi (right) in his 27th season with WJ girls soccer.

The foundation of WJ athletics is made up of students, faculty and parents alike who hold two intersecting values: a passion for their sport and a close-held pride for representing WJ. Few reflect these values better than WJ girls’ varsity soccer (WJGVS) Assistant Coach Alec Latifov who will celebrate his 30th anniversary with the program next season.

Latifov is a 1995 WJ graduate who first became a part of the girls soccer program during his senior year at WJ. He attributes his initial role as manager to befriending the then-head coach Corky Logsdon. Since then, Latifov has worked under five different head coaches and has had several different roles, including as a statistician and assistant coach.

Latifov’s tactical understanding of the game has cemented him in the primary role of collecting individual and team statistics and analyzing game footage to better understand the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

“I do whatever the head coach needs or wants, but I’d like to think that my main contribution is tactics,” Latifov said.

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Current Head Coach Neil Gottleib, who joined the program in 2023, cites Latifov as a tremendous on-field, tactical presence that has made his transition into the program much easier.

“His knowledge of the game and his in-game consultation for me has proven invaluable and we are certainly fortunate that Alec is part of the WJ girls’ soccer program. Most important is the fact that he has a big heart, cares deeply about the team and WJ and is such a great person to be around,” Gottlieb said.

Strictly in terms of results, Latifov was a part of the most accomplished seasons in WJ girls soccer history; he won the program’s first and only state title in 2016 under former head coach Liz Friedman and won two county titles under Logsdon in 1995 and 1998.

“If I am not mistaken, my personal overall record stands at 295-131-17. I am hoping for my wins to be well into the 300s next season,” Latifov said.

Latifov has also coached several of WJ’s most famous and successful soccer alumni. This includes former Washington Spirit forward Caroline Miller (2005-2009) and former University of Wisconsin forward Cammie Murtha (2012 -2016). Both Miller and Murtha were also youth national team players.

“When asked about [Caroline Miller and Cammie Murtha], I always compare the former to Messi for being more talented and the latter to Ronaldo for being more athletic. If I had to select the all-time MVP, it would be Caroline, but Cammie was the single-season [MVP] during our championship run. That year, she was unstoppable, especially in the air,” Latifov said.

Beyond his tactical analysis and player development efforts on the field, off the field, Latifov demonstrates further love for the local community through his service to the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD). He has served the MCPD for the past 19 years and primarily works the night shift on the Rockville district patrol.

In season, Latifov must balance his nocturnal work schedule with several hours in the afternoon spent at WJ practices and games, meaning he sacrifices personal and family time to support WJGVS.

“It is amazing to see Alec show up at practice, get changed into uniform after practice, work as a police officer on the overnight shift, and see him back at practice the next day. Alec has become a friend of mine and the other coaches and there is no way we can be successful without him,” Gottlieb said.

Players are also extremely appreciative of Latifov’s commitment to the team and their success.

“Alec is an amazing person and is a huge part of the team. He makes so many sacrifices to be able to come to our practices and games and makes the team feel like a family,” senior defender Marina Thorn said.

To Latifov, coaching barely feels like a second job as soccer is one of his greatest passions. His love for the game stems from his childhood as a soccer player and fan.

“I was born in the USSR so I was an ice hockey fan as a child. During the 1986 World Cup, soccer piqued my interest, in part because of Maradona, who ended up receiving the tournament’s Golden Ball …Thereafter, I slowly but surely developed a fondness for soccer, watching and playing it on a regular basis, often at the expense of school work,” Latifov said.

If you genuinely want to succeed, train long and hard. Lack of talent can be compensated by industry.

— Latifov

Many years later, Latifov still experiences that same childhood joy, especially now that he has the opportunity to share it with the coaches and players.

“I enjoy many things about coaching, including interacting with [current head coach] Neil [Gottlieb] and other coaches before, after and especially during the games. However, even more than this, I enjoy when players successfully realize our [game] plan on the pitch,” Latifov said.

Latifov has seen class after class come and go from WJ and knows what it’s like to be a WJ student himself. From his almost 30 years of serving the WJ community, Latifov has simple advice for his players.

“If you genuinely want to succeed, train long and hard. Lack of talent can be compensated by industry. I believe this to be applicable to soccer and everything else. Also, try to be good at math. If you are, you’ll be good at everything else,” Latifov said.

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Maya Panicker
Maya Panicker, Print News Editor
Junior Maya Panicker is excited for her first year with the Pitch as a Print News Editor. Maya enjoys playing soccer for WJ and going out with friends.
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