Sometimes throwing away the playbook leads to the best result.
Trailing against Centereach Monday afternoon and trying to a mount a rally from two goals down, the Riverhead Blue Waves moved a defender up top, leaving three players in the back. The possession style of soccer the team tries to play got replaced with a new strategy: just get the ball up field.
With under two minutes left and the ball deep in the Centereach end, Riverhead midfielder Lucas Canel launched a long ball down field. At the other end, in front of the goal, stood Riverhead’s tall forward, Karol Birycki. Between a pair of defenders, Birycki waited as the ball came down, getting a perfect touch on the ball with his foot to deflect it right into the goal.
Birycki held out his arms as teammates mobbed him.
With 1:39 left, the Blue Waves had tied the game, 2-2, which is how it would end after 20 minutes of overtime at Stotzky Park. For the Blue Waves, it was a valuable step in the right direction after four straight losses to open the season.
The first three losses for Riverhead all came by one goal. They featured a similar pattern. Falling behind, then coming to life to try to fight back.
This time, the Blue Waves manage to salvage a game and pick up a crucial tie to gain some ground in the League III standings.
The Blue Waves tied the game with 9:43 left on a free kick from senior Victor Guazhambo-Oritz.
Riverhead fell behind 1-0 in the first half when Elmer Alfaro got behind the defense on a long kick from deep in the Blue Waves’ end. The Blue Waves defenders in the back thought the play was offside, and eased up, allowing Alfaro to break free. The whistle for offside never came.
Alfaro scored the second goal in more dramatic fashion, heading a ball inside the left post off a pass from Ryan Lauer. Alfaro was nearly horizontal to the ground as he drove the ball into the net.
The Blue Waves appeared to tie the game, 1-1, in the second half when sophomore Darwin Villatoro knocked in a cross inside the left post. But the play was ruled offside.
Riverhead will travel to Smithtown East Friday.
Photo Caption: Riverhead senior Phillip Barabanov goes up for a header against Centereach Monday. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)