UNION, NJ -- The Ridge boys soccer team pulled off one of the biggest upsets so far in the state tournament with a shootout victory over Union in the first round of the Section 2, Group 4 tournament Tuesday night.
Ridge prevailed, 5-4, in the penalty kick tiebreaker after the teams remained tied, 1-1, after two overtimes. Chris Profaca scored the goal in the first half on a corner kick feed from Ryan Poignant for the 13th-seeded Red Devils, whose defense held fourth-seeded Union in check even when they were down to just 10 players.
Daniel Ruiz, Owen Brady, David Bartnik, Nick Beckman and Ryan Poignant all made their penalty kicks for Ridge, and goalie Robbie Rutkowski made the first save against Union to secure the victory.
"Defensively, with our shape, I feel we did a great job of minimizing their attack and their strengths going forward, which we knew would be a challenge," said Ridge head coach Enzo Minicozzi. "Center backs Owen Brady and Kevin Landadio handled much of that responsibility while outside backs Kevin Lopez and Vishal Rambaran held the wings steady and provided much needed support, especially when they overcrowded one side on their attack. "
Ridge was able to put itself in position to pull off the upset thanks in part to its ability to control the tempo.
"Center mids Nick Beckman and David Bartnik helped control our pace and showed nice composure for us, winning the ball in key places and then distributing the ball to our attacking midfielders," Minicozzi said. "Our attacking midfielders, Chris Profaca and Brian Arrigan, along with striker Daniel Ruiz found space to combine going forward as well, which gave some relief to our back line, particularly in the first half and key moments of the second when Union really pushed to tie the game up."
Ridge was undermanned in the latter stages of the game, which only heightened the challenge of beating a tough opponent on the road in an elimination game.
"We were down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes of the second half and all of overtime," Minicozzi said. "The team showed great resilience, heart and energy to withstand the attack and even create some chances going forward. Hats off to them for their effort, and to Union, whose ability to combine and create was done very well, and if not for our keeper, Robbie Rutkowski, had multiple chances to as well to score.
"Robbie read their crosses well, was vocal in the box, and stepped up when we needed him the most. He is a big inspiration and model for the heart and work ethic this team has played with and put forth all season."
Ridge, which will play in the quarterfinal round Friday at North Hunterdon, has come a long way from a program that recorded just one victory a year ago.
"To overcome the loss of a player, the away crowd, and the push that Union provided after they tied the game with less than 10 minutes left in the second half is a great sign for our team going forward," Minicozzi said. "They never doubted themselves and it showed all throughout the game. I was very happy with their drive, commitment and attention to detail in all areas of our game plan."