A year older and a year wiser, the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys soccer team could be on the verge of starting something big. READ
A year older and a year wiser, the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys soccer team could be on the verge of starting something big. READ
The Riverhead High School boys soccer team has an obvious connection to Dowling College. Riverhead’s coach, Lamine Traore, left his west African country Mali to accept a full soccer scholarship from Dowling in 2006, the same year Dowling won the NCAA Division II championship. He was the top Division II goal scorer in the country with 26 in 2008, the same year he led the Golden Lions to the national final and was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America third team.
Now Riverhead has another Dowling connection: His name is Anthony Antunes. (more…)
BLUE WAVES 4, COUGARS 0
As the Riverhead boys soccer team was putting the finishing touches to an impressive 4-0 victory over visiting Centereach on Monday, the sun set majestically in the west.
Blue Waves coach Lamine Traore fears the same could be said about his improved team as the regular season nears an end.
During the past several weeks, Riverhead has been among the hottest teams, going 5-1-1 in its last seven games. Unfortunately, that is not enough to boost the Blue Waves into the Suffolk County Class AA Tournament because teams need to finish .500 or higher in their league to qualify for the postseason.
The Blue Waves improved to 5-7-1 in League III and overall with the regular-season finale looming at West Islip on Wednesday.
“We deserve to make the playoffs,” said junior midfielder/forward Anthony Antunes, whose 10th-minute goal sparked the Blue Waves. “I was just told if we win on Wednesday, there might be a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Maybe, maybe not.
If the Blue Waves defeat West Islip and finish at 6-7-1, they could petition county soccer officials to enter the tournament based on their record and recent performances.
Traore admitted that he hadn’t thought of that possibility, but certainly wouldn’t dismiss it.
“If it’s possible, why not?” he said. “We have a shot. These are the teams. We can compete against them. If they need another team, I think we should be out there.”
Traore had no doubts about the great strides his team has made.
“Our program is different from other programs,” he said. “They are able to keep their players together almost the year round. We get the chance to get these kids about two months. To build a team, it takes more than two months. Since we have come here, the end of the season has been better for us. At the beginning, the chemistry is not there, the fitness is not there. As we go, the chemistry starts coming, the fitness gets along and we start battling against these teams.”
The Blue Waves put everything together Monday on both ends of the field against Centereach (2-13, 2-11). Kevin Elejalde, Jayson Set and Victor Guazhambo also scored and a solid defense helped goalkeeper Ryan DiResta (7 saves) recorded a clean sheet.
Traore said it was one of the best performances of the season, that a 1-1 tie with Smithtown West was No. 1. Smithtown West had several players on Smithtown Arsenal, which captured the under-16 boys national youth title this summer.
Afterwards Traore congratulated his players on another home victory and explained how they can translate that success to the road.
“The passion that we have here on our field, let’s see if we can have it on Wednesday when we are away,” he told his team. “You can make the away field your home field playing. Bring the same intensity, you will see how easy the game can be for you. Good job.”
The same could be said about how Riverhead scored its first goal. The Blue Waves cleared a corner kick. The ball came to Antunes and he bolted down the left side, from box to box before unleashing a 20-yard shot past goalkeeper Rob Retnauer to the lower right corner.
“All I saw was the goal,” Antunes said. “I had a couple of players in front of me. As soon as I passed the first one, I knew. All I knew I had an eye for goal. I was going straight for goal, no matter who was in my way.”
The goal lifted the Blues Waves’ spirits.
“It motivated us,” Elejalde said. “That’s why we won, 4-0. We played our game.”
It certainly motivated Elejalde, who headed home an 18-yard shot for a 2-0 lead with 21:34 remaining in the half.
With 12:57 left in the half, Guazhambo converted a rebound to raise the margin to 3-0 before Set closed out the scoring with 30:24 remaining in the game.
“We communicated well,” Elejalde said. “We made a lot of passes. We played beautiful. We should have played like this throughout the whole season. This was our best game, definitely.”
The Blue Waves hope to have a few more opportunities to duplicate that in the coming weeks.
BLUE WAVES 2, BULLDOGS 1
Eight days ago, the Riverhead boys soccer team traveled to Centereach with their season quickly slipping away. Nearly three weeks into the regular season, the Blue Waves were 0-5, and desperate for a spark.
In that game Sept. 30, the offense that had been lacking suddenly came to life in the form of a 4-0 victory. Three brothers — Brian and Kevin Elejalde and Sergio Ricon-Giraldo — all scored in the win. Two days later, the Blue Waves won 3-1 at West Islip.
While the wins against Centereach and West Islip were nice, those teams are a combined 1-18 on the year.
What awaited the Blue Waves next was the true test of just how far they’ve come — matches against Smithtown West and North Babylon, the top two teams in League III.
Riverhead answered the bell with two superb games. The Blue Waves battled Smithtown West to a 1-1 draw, snapping the Bulls’ nine-game win streak.
And on Tuesday afternoon in Riverhead, the Blue Waves picked up one of the biggest wins in recent years by toppling North Babylon, 2-1, in a tense match that came down to the very end.
“We always had [the confidence],” said Riverhead goalkeeper Ryan DiResta, who was outstanding in goal with 12 saves Tuesday. “We just didn’t realize it until a couple games ago.”
The Blue Waves scored two early goals against the Bulldogs and held off a late surge in the second half to run their unbeaten streak to four.
At 3-5-1 in League III, suddenly the playoffs aren’t out of the question for the surging Blue Waves.
“This win is very good for us,” said Riverhead coach Lamine Traore. “It boosts their confidence.”
North Babylon came into the game in second place with just two losses. The Bulldogs head home with their record dropped to 7-3-1 overall and 6-3 in league.
When the season began, Traore knew it would take time for the Blue Waves to get rolling. Without the year-round play that many programs enjoy, the Blue Waves were mostly starting from scratch in terms of players learning the system and developing chemistry on the field.
But now the Blue Waves are starting to see what they’re capable of. In the first half, excellent passing and teamwork, with players looking for each other and playing smart soccer, led to a pair of goals and few scoring chances for the Bulldogs.
It took nine minutes for the Blue Waves to strike when junior Denis Escalante converted in front. He had a chance to take a left-footed shot, but hesitated and brought it back to his right foot, kicking the ball inside the left post on a low shot.
In the 17th minute, sophomore Jayson Set lofted a deep shot along the left sideline that sailed inside the far post.
“We’re playing our style and they’re starting to know each other,” Traore said.
The Bulldogs upped the pressure in the second half and the Blue Waves got away somewhat from what worked well in the first half. With a two-goal lead, there’s always a natural tendency for players to stay back on their heels rather than keep attacking.
The Bulldogs broke through in the 60th minute when Gabriel Fernandes scored inside the 18 after a deep throw-in. North Babylon’s Zach Parker threw it in from the left sideline and the ball bounced amid a crowd of players inside the 18, scooting to Fernandes for an easy tap in.
“It just hit around people and somehow he got it right by the post,” DiResta said.
Parker presented a challenge for Riverhead with his throw-ins, which had the effect of a corner kick.
“It’s almost a bigger threat because they have more time to react because [the ball] floats in the air,” DiResta said. “It’s harder for me because if I come out I might not be able to get to it in time.”
The Bulldogs had several good chances from throw-ins. On a corner kick late in the game, DiResta made a leaping, two-handed save on a header to preserve the one-goal lead.
North Babylon appeared to score shortly afterward on a throw-in, but the play was ruled offsides.
Coming into the season half with a two-goal lead, Traore said he told his team to approach the half one quarter at a time.
“The first 15 let’s manage it and then start developing our own games,” he said. “But we got caught not playing our game.”
The Blue Waves still had a few chances to extend their lead. Set had the ball in transition one play and sent a feed across to sophomore Phillip Barabanov. He attacked the goalkeeper one-on-one, but hesitated a split second too long and couldn’t get off a shot.
For as well as the Blue Waves have played of late, DiResta said Tuesday’s win was just part of the bigger goal.
“It’s one of the better ones, but it’s just another on our way to playoffs,” he said.
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.”
Lamine Traore knows a thing or two about goals, having scored his share of them when he played for the Dowling College men’s soccer team. He knows that goals are the lifeblood of a soccer team. A team needs them to win and to thrive.
But Traore also knows that goals don’t come easily. The creativity that produces goals is often the final piece of the puzzle for a developing team.
Traore, 29, came to America to accept a full soccer scholarship from Dowling in 2006, the same year Dowling won the Division II national championship. Traore finished his four-year career at Dowling with 39 goals and 11 assists in 61 games played, and is ranked third on the school’s all-time goal-scoring list. He was the top Division II goal scorer in the country with 26 in 2008, the same year he led the Golden Lions to the national final and was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America third team.
And now, Traore brings his soccer knowledge and hunger for goals to the Riverhead Blue Waves (5-7 last season) as the team’s new coach. He succeeds A. J. Kretschmer, who went 10-16 in his two years in charge.
Riverhead has never reached the playoffs, and Traore is under no delusion. He appreciates the magnitude of the work cut out for him.
“It’s not an easy job,” he said after a hard practice last week. “If I said it was an easy job, I’d be lying. It’s not, but you know, soccer has always been in my life.”
It was soccer that enticed Traore to make the courageous decision to leave his west African homeland, Mali, as well as his family and, with a little knowledge of English, pursue a future in the United States, where he didn’t know anyone.
What Traore did know, though, was soccer.
“Since I was little, my coach used to tell me that soccer is universal,” he said. “Wherever you go, if you speak the soccer language, you’ll get along.”
Now Traore has undertaken his first coaching job. A former Dowling teammate of his who was also an all-American, Moussa Keita, is Riverhead’s new junior varsity coach.
Traore is trying to instill the understanding in his players that simplicity is soccer’s Holy Grail. The simpler a player plays, the better. “The best player is the one who plays the most simplest way,” he said.
The Blue Waves have two accomplished all-league players they can rely on in senior center midfielder Jordan Fulcoly and junior defender Diego Guazhambo. They head a cast of 10 returning players that also includes goalkeepers Joe Inzalaco and Selvin Morales, defenders Kevin Antunes, Abner Ortiz and Josue Cruz, midfielder Andrew Ruggiero and forwards Devrim Kucuk and Nabio Rangel.
Also joining the team are: defenders Jorge Solorzano, Sergio Gonzalez, Mike Serafico, Erick Pulla and Kevin Guazhambo, midfielders Anthony Flores, Gilberto Rosas and Carlos Guzman, and forwards Pablo Guazhambo, Michael Atkins, Shakeel Khan, Joseph Seymore, Demar Mason, Gabriel Guazhambo and Christian Garcia.
“If we get together and play as a team, we will go somewhere, we will go far,” said Traore.
As a player or coach, seeing a goal scored remains a joy for Traore.
“Scoring makes me really happy, even if I’m on the sideline,” he said. “I see a kid scoring, it just makes me happy. I just love to see the ball in the net.”
And one more thing about goals. According to Traore, there is no such thing as an ugly goal.
“No,” he said, “all goals are beautiful. As long as it crosses the line, it’s a goal, and I don’t mind. Just put it in.”
When it comes to soccer, age is measured differently, as in dog years. Class (senior, junior, sophomore, etc.) really takes a back seat to “soccer years.” A young player can be more experienced than an older one, depending on his “soccer years.”
And so, don’t be misled by looking at the young ages of the Bishop McGann-Mercy players. The Monarchs (2-14) play beyond their years. Louis Manoussos calls it the most talented group he has had in his three years as the team’s coach.
“When opposing coaches see the age on the roster, they’re going to say: ‘Oh my God. Am I playing a JV team here?’ ” he said. “But they’re going to see the talent.”
The Monarchs will depend on their three captains — Roger Young, a senior goalkeeper, Damian Duda, a junior striker/attacking midfielder, and Patrick Derenze, a junior striker.
Manoussos holds Young in high regard. “Our team will go as far as Roger takes the team,” the coach said. “In my opinion, he’s one of the better keepers in the county.”
Bereket Watts, a freshman in his third varsity year, is an all-conference center midfielder. Brian Willett, a junior right back, and Michael Shelton, a freshman stopper/sweeper, were both starters last year who should help fortify the defense.
Connor Galvin, the team’s only other senior besides Young, is the starting left back.
Among the new additions are a pair of eighth-graders, right midfielder Alex Fabrizio and central defender Joe Leonardi. The rest of the underclassmen are forward Louis Arresta, defender Dominic Gallo, midfielder Riley Joinnides, midfielder Massamino Luigini, right midfielder Wesley McBerne and left midfielder Collin Cuccia.
“There’s something about these kids,” said Manoussos, who is entering his 28th season as a head coach. “We put them through hell, literally hell [in preseason training]. They all came back with a smile on their face. They’re striving toward that respect factor. They want to get respect on the field.”
After losing a huge chunk of seniors from last year’s team, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats will turn to a new group of young players, many of whom have grown up playing soccer together.
“There’s a lot of kids who played club ball, grew up all playing since they were 5 years old together,” Shoreham Coach Andrew Moschetti said. “They know where they are on the field without having to even look.”
The Wildcats reached the playoffs in Class A last year as the No. 7 seed and lost to Elwood/John Glenn. They opened the season with a pair of non-league games, winning by 5-1 Saturday against Eastport-South Manor and falling, 5-2, at Kings Park on Monday.
Leading the team this year are senior captains Toni Domingues and Nick Araujo. Domingues plays in the midfield and Araujo is a defender.
Both players already have a goal on the season.
Charles DeMaio scored a pair of goals in the Wildcats’ win against Eastport. Greg Canellys scored a goal in both games so far as well.
Senior Joe Cahill, a newcomer to the varsity level, has started in goal for the Wildcats. Short on goalies going into the summer, the Wildcats got Cahill, a hockey goalie, to come out for the team. Moschetti said Cahill continually improved during the summer from one game to the next.
While the Wildcats have consistently made the playoffs, they’ve struggled getting past the first round. Moschetti said that’s the goal coming into this season, to advance beyond the first round. The team will face plenty of strong competition in League VI playing against Glenn, East Hampton and Westhampton Beach.
“Our senior captains have shown great leadership throughout the preseason and we are excited for league play to start,” Moschetti said.
Shoreham opens on the road Monday where its season ended last year — at John Glenn.
Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.