BRIDGEWATER, NJ — One of the most intriguing out-of-conference matchups on Bridgewater-Raritan’s schedule is their annual early season showdown with Scotch Plains-Fanwood. The two perennial powerhouses have played some tremendous games in their yearly September meet ups, and almost always exchange blows deep in the state tournament.
But on Saturday, it was about as one-sided as a match can get.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood (7-0) stayed scolding hot and posted its most lopsided, complete effort of the season in a 4-0 victory at Bridgewater-Raritan, which knocked the Raiders out of the state tournament in 2017 and also beat them in the regular season. The Raiders scored once in the first half and three times in the second, out-shooting their Somerset County counterparts 12-4.
Zidan Abdella scored twice — both in the second half — while Ryan Widman and Jonathan Koseoglu added goals for the Raiders. Bridgewater-Raritan keepers Steve Velastig and Harry Yessman combined to make 11 saves.
“Scotch Plains is very organized and they’re always very well-coached, they’re a good program and it’s a good game for us,” said Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Rick Szeles. “What I liked about it from our point of view is that it opened up our eyes to what we have to work on, and we have to be more aggressive. I didn’t think we competed well today.”
After Widman finished a deflected shot from Thomas Rodriguez to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead 32 minutes in and Jonathan Koseoglu extended it to 2-0 in the 51st minutes out of halftime, Abdella took over and put it to bed.
The senior has picked up right where he left off last season, and really showed out in the second half Saturday. Having scored in four straight games entering the match, Abdella extended the streak when he drilled a PK after getting taken out in the box 15 minutes into the second half. Four minutes later, he put the finishing touches on a successful afternoon by finishing a point-blank shot off a flick over top from Alvaro Furfaro.
Now with a team-best eight goals, Abdella is one away from matching his 2017-leading mark of nine.
“It just feels great to help the team out,” Abdella said. “Disappointed I could’t get a third today, but I helped the team with two goals and we got a good win over this team — definitely dominated them.”
What makes the Raiders so dangerous is how a host of players join Abdella up top. Rodriguez is one of, if not, the top freshmen in the state and has been lethal this season, and Widman is always in the thick of things, too. Those two came through and got things started for the Raiders.
In the 32nd minute after the Raiders were relentless on applying pressure, Rodriguez fired a wicked shot from the left flank with such such force that it bounced off the hands of Panthers keeper Steve Velastig before the goal line. Widman was there to finish it into the left corner, giving the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
Jonathan Koseoglu is another dangerous player up top for the Raiders, and extended the lead to 2-0 moments out of halftime when he finished buried a strike dead center in the 18 box.
“We have to play tighter man-to-man in the box,” Szeles said. “We have to play more compact defense on the field, and we all have to get back behind the ball. When we do that, we’re gonna go far.”
Once the Raiders went ahead, they had little trouble protecting the lead. The team has now posted over 160 minutes of shutout soccer, and senior keeper Eric Refinski notched his second straight shutout in consecutive starts.
Refinski faced just four shots Saturday, as the Raiders’ seasoned midfield and backline — made up of Alex Levy, Joey Linder, and Michael Dieu for the greater portion — shutdown the Panthers’ relatively inexperienced and young attack.
“The offense will come,” said Szeles. “We were a little bit tired — this is our eighth game. We want to make a run in the counties and get to the states and make a run there, and that’s the goal. It’s hard, but we are a work in progress.”