With the top boys soccer teams in the FCIAC returning most of their key players, Staples is in a position where more depth is required to mount a championship challenge.

Coach Dan Woog is optimistic that his 18 returners can provide enough reinforcements as the Wreckers cram 16 matches — most of which will be highly competitive — in 45 days.

The Wreckers (12-7-2) finished 2014 much better than they started it, winning five of their last six games to reach the FCIAC tournament. They made the FCIAC semifinals and Class LL quarterfinals, though losses to Greenwich and Darien in those tournaments left a sour taste.

“We knew we could have won those games,” said senior captain Kenji Goto. “Everything we’ve done in the last year, we’ve just been thinking about those games and it just pushes us to work harder.”

Goto and junior Josh Berman will be the center defensive partnership for the Wreckers. Berman got significant playing time last year as injuries cost graduated senior Andrew Puchala most of the season.

“(Berman) has got tremendous experience, he’s tough on both sides of the ball,” Woog said. “He’s a vocal leader and so is (Goto); they complement each other very well.”

Senior Daniel Perez Elorza returns at forward, and Daniel Brill and Adian Wisher will be in the mix for playing time, according to Woog.

“Our biggest strength is our depth,” Goto said. “In years past we’ve had our starting 11 and two or three off the bench, but this year no matter who we put in we know the level won’t drop.”

Goalie Noah Schwaeber has battled injuries over the last year and will miss the start of the season with a hand injury. Graham Gudis, Grant Sirlin and Jack Zeldes are also on the mend.

Woog expects Daniel Reid to be a key player in the center midfield.

“He’s got a soccer brain,” Woog said. “He’s got a nice touch, he delivers great passes, he opens things up and he’s a tough kid.”

For the second straight year the Wreckers loaded up on tough preseason tests to prepare for the challenge of the FCIAC. Staples edged Fairfield Prep 1-0 and also battled private schools Choate and Martin Luther King.

“They’re good competition, some teams are like the FCIAC teams and some aren’t,” Schwaeber said. “They’re all good tests and good teams that do well in their conferences.”

With so many quality teams in the FCIAC, the Wreckers get little breaks in their schedule. Matchups against Stamford, Ridgefield and Greenwich take place in September, while games against Darien, Wilton and Danbury are in the second half of the season.

“It’s a really tough league this year; virtually every team has everyone coming back,” Woog said. “Our guys they love the run they made last year, but we didn’t finish. This is a competitive bunch of kids and it has rankled them.”