BOB LIEPA PHOTO
Riverhead’s Diego Guazhambo, left, and Jordan Cangas objected to a foul called against the Blue Waves during Saturday’s game versus Copiague.
For two high school boys soccer teams that had only one win between them, this was a big game.
In Suffolk County League III, teams have to scratch out wins where they can find them, and the Riverhead Blue Waves and Copiague Eagles saw a possible win when they faced each other on Saturday morning. The urgency was palpable.
Visiting Copiague, however, was at a distinct disadvantage, missing five players, including three regular starters, and having only two substitutes available. The Eagles held on, too, for 77 minutes — and then Jordan Fulcoly struck.
Fulcoly’s goal with three minutes left in the second half lifted Riverhead to its first league win of the season, 1-0. It was the junior forward’s first goal of the season and second of his varsity career.
“We had to pull through,” Fulcoly said. “It was going to be a tough season if we lost this one.”
Tell Riverhead Coach A. J. Kretschmer about it. Kretschmer agonized on the sideline as he watched both teams miss chance after chance as the thrilling drama unfolded.
“I’m breathing a sigh of relief, definitely,” Kretschmer said afterward. “We found a goal.”
The goal was set up by Nery Paredes’ free kick from the left flank toward the far goalpost. Raul Hernandez headed the ball from Paredes across the goalmouth and the onrushing Fulcoly pushed it in. Fulcoly, who took a game-high six shots, said he was in line with Hernandez and not offside on the play.
“I don’t know if I stole [Hernandez’s] goal or not, it might have been going in, but I’m glad I got it,” said Fulcoly.
For the previous 77 minutes, Riverhead (2-2-1, 1-2) held a great advantage in opportunities in the action-packed match. Employing an offensive 4-3-3 formation, the Blue Waves maintained sizable superiorities in shots (19-5) and corner kicks (11-1).
That doesn’t mean Copiague didn’t have its chances, though. Sergio Pretell, stationed on the doorstep of Riverhead’s goal, struck a first-timer from a service by Jose Escobar wide of the mark in the second half. Later in the half, he came even closer to scoring. Sent through on a ball from Kevin Reyes, Pretell chipped the ball over goalkeeper Jose Bonilla — and off the crossbar!
It was a cruel loss for Copiague, which suffered its fifth loss in as many games, three of which were league contests.
“It’s really disappointing,” Copiague goalkeeper Ryan Lent said. “This game meant a lot to us. We wanted to come back with a win, and to not do that is shocking, and the way it ended is heart-breaking.”
Before its goal, Riverhead failed to capitalize on one opportunity after another: A Paredes volley swerved and smacked off the right goalpost. Fulcoly pushed a ball past Lent, only to see it roll wide of the left post by inches. In the second half, a Fulcoly shot deflected off a defender’s foot and was headed for the net, but Lent, showing excellent reflexes, fisted the ball over the top for one of his five saves and a corner kick. Paredes almost scored directly from a corner kick, only to see the ball headed off the goal line by Jose Andrade. Edwin Robles fired wide left on a shot that looked sure to produce a goal, but left Robles holding his head in disbelief instead.
“It’s a highly frustrating game like this where you seem like you’re pounding on the doorstep, pounding on the doorstep, but nothing’s falling, though,” Kretschmer said. “But the kids kept working. I give credit to them. They kept working and they found a way to get it in. That’s what a season is about, finding a way to get victories.”
The hard-fought game saw both sides issued two yellow cards apiece: to Copiague’s Anderson Aviles and Lent (for throwing the ball at Robles), and to Riverhead’s Devrim Kucuk and Jordan Cangas. Fiery emotion extended beyond 80 minutes, with players from both teams exchanging words after the game before they were separated.
Bonilla, a sophomore who normally plays midfield or forward, made one save for the shutout in his goalkeeping debut.
“We had three good chances; they didn’t go in,” Copiague Coach Jim Konen said. “What are you going to do? Our guys played hard. I can’t complain. At the end of the day, we’re 0 and 5, and that’s what it is. It’s a great effort, but it’s a long bus ride home being 0 and 5.”