MILLBURN,NJ — After a disappointing 5-11 season, Livingston has the makings of a soccer team that can surprise a lot of people in 2018, and it showed the ability to compete with the best on opening day against Millburn on Thursday.
Once trailing, 2-0, coming out of halftime, Livingston mounted a stunning rally to tie the game at two before defending Essex County Tournament finalist Millburn pulled away with a 3-2 win on Alex Migoya’s game-winner in the 70th minute.
Aria Navi and Franco Burga scored 35 minutes apart for Livingston as the Lancers equalized the score at two, although Migoya would strike five minutes later. Lancers goalkeeper Elijah Elster made seven saves in the effort.
Livingston has now dropped its past three contests against Millburn, dating back to 2015.
With the score tied at two and overtime looming as ominous storm clouds—which would later break the heat that canceled the majority of athletic events throughout the state—started to roll over Dr. Keith A. Neigel Field, Millburn found it within itself to overcome near collapse.
On a hectic play that began around midfield, a through ball was played up center from the left flank. Migoya received the pass and separated from his defender with some crafty footwork, leaving him an open shot from about 25 yards out.
The sophomore took a chance and was rewarded when his off-balance strike hit net with 10:16 remaining in regulation, giving the Millers a 3-2 lead they’d protect for the remainder.
“I think my teammate played a ball that put pressure on the outside back or center back,” Migoya said of the crazy and confusing sequence. “It was easy from there.
“Deep down inside, we knew that we could beat this team, and I think we knew we were better than them. Collectively as a team, we played really well, and we just gotta keep going from here.”
Migoya’s game-winning goal was his second of the afternoon, but the fruits of his first were almost erased when Livingston turned the tides coming out of the half to make it a brand new game with 15 minutes remaining.
In the 65th minute, Navi finished a cross sent from Ryan Melnick for goal on a questionable play that could’ve been ruled off-sides. It wasn’t called though, and things were suddenly evened up a two just 36 minutes after the Lancers cut their deficit to 2-1 when Franco Burga scored in the 51st minute.
Livingston’s equalizer erased the lead that Millburn built up in a dominating first half in which they applied relentless offensive pressure and out-shot the Lancers, 15-3.
The Millers jumped ahead 1-0 the 20th minute when Zach Butter rocked a deep ball into the center lane from about 50 out and Migoya received it in stride, then scored uncontested from 15 yards away from the goal. Nineteen minutes later, Ano Chinogwenya sent one home off a great feed from Chistian Clark to make it 2-0, but that lead would've been much larger had some earlier dangerous shots fallen for Millburn.
Migoya's goals were the second and third of his varsity career, while senior Chinogwenya's was his first. The speedy duo are just two of the players Millburn will rely on to take over the reins after graduating a strong 2018 senior class that led them to the Essex County final and North 2, Group 4 semis last year.
“We got a lot of new guys in some key roles," Robinson said. "Actually, it was the same kind of game in last year’s opener—overtime, 2-1 or 1-0, I don’t remember. But it’s good; it’s good to see the younger guys. [Migoya] had limited time as a sophomore last year, and now he’s a junior and ready to go.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Zack Barr is another one of those new players, and he finished his first career varsity start with five saves.