The boys soccer competition in Suffolk County League III can be so tight that the difference in a game can depend on which way the wind blows. It blew in Riverhead ‘s direction on Thursday, or at least the Blue Waves did more with the wind at their backs than the visiting North Babylon Bulldogs did.
It made all the difference.
After surviving a first half playing against the considerable wind gusts, Riverhead received second-half goals from Pedro Carrillo and Jordan Fulcoly for a 2-0 victory. Jose Bonilla made five saves for his second shutout of the season as Riverhead snapped a three-game losing streak, improving to 3-5-1, 2-5 in the league.
North Babylon, meanwhile, suffered its fifth straight loss, dropping to 2-7, 2-5 as the first half of the league season was completed.
“The wind was a major factor for both teams, and we selected to go against it in the first half, thinking that we would be fresher to defend going against the wind, and our goal was 0-0” at halftime, Riverhead Coach A. J. Kretschmer said. “In the second half we capitalized with the wind at our back.”
Although Riverhead undoubtedly has skill and features a nice short-passing game, Kretschmer said goal scoring has been a challenge for his team. The Blue Waves have 10 goals from nine games and have been shut out twice.
“We’ve created opportunities, we just haven’t found the back of the net,” he said. “In soccer, it’s hard to score goals sometimes, but we have to find a way.”
Milo Perez, a senior left midfielder, said: “It’s hard. We don’t have anybody who can finish consistently.”
Carrillo and Fulcoly both came through Thursday, though, with their third and second goals, respectively, of the season.
The first goal of the game had a pinball quality to it. After a Carrillo shot was saved by Nicholas Petratos, the rebound rolled to Fulcoly, facing an open net. But Fulcoly’s attempt struck teammate Devrim Kucuk and floated in the air for Carrillo to head into the unguarded net.
Shortly after, Petratos exited the game, complaining about eye trouble. He was replaced by Cody Gardner.
The second goal by Fulcoly was a matter of determination. Kucuk met a pass from Carrillo with a first-time shot that was blocked by Gardner. But Fulcoly made sure to sweep in the rebound. “I had to plow through,” he said.
Riverhead had other close scoring chances in the second half when it took 20 of its 24 shots. One of the best was when Perez nudged the ball just inches wide of the right goalpost.
“Today was a great sign for us,” Kretschmer said. “I think why we scored today is because we were aggressive. We ran through the ball. . . . Today we really pushed forward and we got a couple of scrappy goals, and some hard work running through the ball and that’s really good to see.”
Playing in soccer’s version of a wind tunnel, North Babylon didn’t waste time trying to make the most of its wind advantage in the first half. In the game’s opening moments, Bonilla made a fabulous save, deflecting a tremendous drive by Tom Knowles.
“The first minute or so they were kind of down our throats right away and Jose really kept us in early,” said Kretschmer.
Knowles, who took seven of his team’s 10 shots, nearly scored again later in the half. He swerved a corner kick into the wicked wind and watched the ball slam against the crossbar.
North Babylon Coach Mike Cashman said the wind was a “huge factor. It almost plays like one extra player when you have the wind” in your favor.
Late in the first half, Riverhead nearly went in front when Cesar Puluc received a pass from Nery Paredes and forced a save from Petratos. Paredes, a stylish center midfielder, had 54 touches, completed 23 of 36 passes, was fouled twice and put two of his four shots on goal.
“It just wasn’t there for us today,” said Cashman, who called Riverhead a good team. “Every team in this league is a good team. There’s no team that you’re going to come in and have an easy time with.”
Wind-aided or not.