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Boys soccer: Love was at the forefront of Romano's time ahead of Legacy; it's also the reason he's leaving

Jun. 1—The architect responsible for Legacy High School's ascent into a boys' soccer power is walking away.

It's been weeks since Anthony Romano made the decision to leave. Emotions are still raw.

Not only is the four-time Front Range League coach of the year departing from a program he led to much success in his 15 years in charge, he said he feels like he's walking away from something that has framed so much of his identity.

"I can think of my entire life at Legacy through a soccer lens," he said this past week. "Whether it was the birth of my son, I was divorced along the way, I changed professions. — lot of big events I can see in the space and time of soccer."

He takes a moment to share a laugh, thinking back 17 years when he was an assistant with the Lightning and had to run out of a game — not once, but twice — after getting the call that his then-wife was going into labor.

Two "false alarms" later, he said, his only son, Mateo, was born. The now-junior at Erie High School is the biggest reason for Romano's departure.

"A friend of mine said to me when I was on the fence if it was time for me to hang it up or not, 'If you chose to give it up and spend the next couple years with your son instead, I don't think you're going to regret that at all. But if you choose to stay, I think a couple years from now, there's a chance you might regret it,'" said Romano, also noting conversations with longtime Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher and former longtime Legacy softball coach Dawn Gaffin while trying to make his decision.

"As silly as that sounds, I remember that in all my soul searching for many months about this process. It was the moment I was like, You're right. You're right. There is a chance I will regret it by not choosing to spend more time with my son in these next two years. And that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for me."

Romano, who is also transitioning his role inside the building, moving from Legacy's counseling department to its dean of students, told his team his decision May 2.

On Friday, the Lightning officially announced his successor: Bryan Johnston. Romano's assistant from last fall said his hope is the Lightning "continue to be a force out of the North."

"I will be happy to support them in any way they want," Romano said ahead of the hire. "And that will mean I need to let them do it their way. And I need to be OK that their way is probably going to be different than my way."

Romano led the program to three league titles and five state quarterfinals appearances in his tenure.

All that was missing was a state title, he sighed. "It's the one thing that got away and I hope the next (coach) can make that a reality."

To those closest to him, his career was defined by more.

"For me, Coach Romano will always be my favorite coach," said his former Legacy midfielder Gael Hernandez, who graduated in 2022. "When I showed up at my first pair of summer trainings, he was very welcoming and made me feel welcome in a setting that was a bit overwhelming as an incoming freshman. The years went by and the connection between me and him is one I will always cherish. ... Tactics and coaching aside, he is one of the best individuals I've been around."