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Boys Soccer: Riverhead’s home opener ends in heartbreak

What position does Ian Lull play?

It’s a simple question that requires a bit of an involved answer.

On paper, Lull is a central attacking midfielder for the Riverhead High School boys soccer team. True enough, but he also has the freedom to go anywhere he wants on the field as he sees fit. It’s a testament to the trust and respect coach Evan Philcox has for the senior.

Lull cuts a smooth figure on the field, with his shock of flowing red hair shooting out from one direction to another as he suddenly shifts course, shaking off a defender or two in the process. He looks the part of a prototypical playmaking midfielder. His exceptional skill with the ball at his feet enables him to maintain possession and buy more time with his expert dribbling as he explores passing options. He is a creator, taking the team’s free kicks and corner kicks.

In addition to his ability to distribute, Lull is “basically unguardable one-on-one,” said Philcox.

Lull’s talent speaks for itself. And, not least of all, Lull knows what he’s doing on a soccer field. Thus the rare freedom he has been granted.

“Ian is awesome,” Philcox said. “We are trying to play the system to just kind of let Ian float wherever he wants to go and pick his spots, find his way to the ball when he sees a dangerous opportunity, get himself forward when he sees a dangerous opportunity … We have a shape and then Ian is just in orbit, using his high soccer IQ and his outrageous skills to fill in the gaps, so yes, it’s a lot of fun to watch him. We’re definitely happy to have him on our team.”

Lull helped Riverhead a good deal in its home opener Wednesday at Pulaski Sports Complex. Despite a fine effort, the Blue Waves lost the Suffolk County League II contest to Lindenhurst, 2-1, on junior defender Gerson Ososrio’s golden goal 4 minutes, 12 seconds into overtime. His shot found the lower left of the net. Devin Seara assisted, giving him two goals and three assists in Lindenhurst’s first four games.

“It’s the worst way to lose,” said Riverhead senior right wing Davit Kebadze.

As painful as it was for the Blue Waves (0-3-1, 0-1-1) to lose a game like that, there were encouraging signs and positives, even if they don’t show up in the win-loss column.

“In the big picture, there’s a lot to be happy about because now we’re playing close games against good teams in League II, a competitive league, so if you take a step back and look at the big picture, you can see where we’re going,” Philcox said. “Obviously today, it’s frustrating; it hurts.”

For the great majority of the 80 minutes of regulation time, the teams stubbornly refused to concede a goal. That changed when Riverhead broke the ice with 5:19 left in the second half. Following a headed flick by Kebadze, forward Wilfredo Munoz found himself alone against goalkeeper Ron Durante. The sophomore placed a firm shot inside the far left goalpost before jumping into the arms of joyous teammates.

“We thought the game was over,” said Lull.

It wasn’t.

The Riverhead joy lasted all of 51 seconds. It was only 51 seconds later when Riverhead goalkeeper Josue Razana (five saves) tipped a ball that bounced tantalizingly in front of an open section of the goal. Leo Cabrera was on the spot to gratefully slam the ball in from close range for the equalizer.

Lindenhurst (3-1, 1-0) had its chances earlier. With 61 seconds left in the first half, Seara laid off a pass for Julian Reyes, whose point-blank blast was blocked by Razana. Early in the second half, a pair of Lindenhurst shots found the side netting. Then, with a little over seven minutes to go in the second half, an Ososrio centering pass found an unguarded Rishav Dey on the doorstep of an unguarded goal. He slammed his first-time shot off the left post.

Lull, one of Riverhead’s third-year players along with defenders Danny Arias and Erick Valladares, took four shots; none of them were on target. An All-Conference player last season with seven goals and four assists, Lull has two assists through four games.

“He’s a weapon,” Kebadze said. “He creates more options, plays for us, and it’s just like we rely on Ian. We believe in him.”

Lull, who plays for the Barca New York club team, said his job is to be “as selfless as possible and just kind of help create opportunities for other people because a lot of times we play these teams, they mark a lot of guys on me, so it frees up a lot of space for other people. I have great teammates around me. I don’t have to score all the goals myself.”

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Photo caption: Ian Lull, a central attacking midfielder for Riverhead, has the freedom to go anywhere on the field where he thinks he can help. (Credit: Bob Liepa)