WOLVERINES 4, BLUE WAVES 0
Sooner or later, sophomore forward Phillip Barabanov knows he’s going to get his goals.
“Sometimes you can miss and sometimes it can go in,” he said. “If you just keep on going to the goal, you’ll get it.”
The same can be said of the Riverhead High School boys soccer coach, Lamine Traore. Sooner or later, he knows his Blue Waves will begin winning some games.
“My biggest problem is like here,” Traore said, pointing to his head. “If they are able to get into their head, then all will be good. We have very good players. They just need to learn to trust themselves, leave all the little things that are going on the side and just focus on soccer and play.”
For now, the Blues (0-3, 0-3) are enduring a difficult start to the season. On Friday, they suffered their third consecutive loss, a 4-0 home defeat to Newfield in a Suffolk County League III game.
Senior forward Jake Barros led the way, scoring 2 goals and assisting on two others in a virtuoso performance for the Wolverines (4-1, 3-0).
Traore, a high-scoring striker and member of Dowling College’s 2006 NCAA Division II championship team, felt Riverhead lacked confidence in itself and its abilities.
“You saw how we played. You saw how we dominated the game [at times],” he said. “The only thing that we have to change now is to put in their heads that they can beat those teams.
“We have to put in their head that they are the same level. There is no big gap any more. We play as they play, even play better. The big problem is that they’re more confident than we are.”
The course of the game could have been changed after Dale McNevin converted a left-wing cross by Barros 3 minutes 52 seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. A little more than three minutes later, Barabanov chipped goalkeeper Sean Kelly and hit the crossbar.
Barabanov said he thought the ball “was going to go in at first. I thought I was going to get a second chance, but it just rolled away.”
That close encounter started a frustrating afternoon for the Blue Waves, who came close on several occasions, but could not solve Kelly. Barabanov fired three other shots on target that Kelly saved.
“Yeah, it usually happens,” he said. “I just have to keep my head up and try to do it again.”
Riverhead had some other shots on goal that Kelly (5 saves) cleaned up.
“Communication is part of it,” Traore said. “As a striker, you can’t give up when you miss one goal. You’ve got to keep going. If you miss one goal, it’s like, ‘O.K., it’s over.’ That’s when you have to step up and go. The more you believe in yourself, the more chances you’re giving yourself to finish. Once you put your head down, it’s not going to work.”
It worked quite well for Barros, a returning All-County player. He finished a dream week in which he scored 8 goals, which can be considered a good season for some strikers. He connected for his first career hat trick in a 5-1 victory at Centereach and added another trey in a 3-2 home triumph versus West Islip.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I’m just glad the team got three wins and opened the season 3-0.”
Barros converted a penalty kick with 31:04 remaining in first half and added a second goal off a McNevin feed with 12:30 to go in the half. He turned playmaker again, setting up Eric Oakley with 35:59 left in the match.
Some cynics might say Barros underachieved Friday, failing to reach a week of a hat trick of hat tricks, but Newfield coach Jamie Santiago felt otherwise.
“I thought today was his best game because he had a hand in every goal,” he said. “He’s had a great week for us. He’s looking to do great things the entire season. We’re relying on him. That’s why he’s our captain and our leader.”
Santiago felt the Blue Waves had a good showing themselves.
“They were a tough, physical team,” he said. “They did give us a test. I wasn’t disappointed in them at all. They gave us a good fight. We have a couple of players who can make a difference and that’s what they did.”
Barabanov, who hopes to be a difference-maker someday, said Riverhead has to forget the start of the season.
“Don’t concede any goals,” he said. “Just forget about the three losses and keep on winning.”