BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- In the Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys’ soccer team’s surge back to .500, Zidan Abdella has emerged into a force at the forward position.
Abdella struck again Tuesday, scoring the lone goal needed to win against Gov. Livingston as the Raiders rattled off their fifth consecutive victory to even their record at 6-6 after beginning the season 1-6.
After Gov. Livingston’s Andrew Santamaria was issued a yellow card for slide tackling Scotch Plains’ Jon Koseoglu in the 32nd minute, Brogan Quigley took the Raiders’ awarded free kick. Quigley launched a ball into the 18-box, which the Raiders’ Jack Brady used his height to get his head on and sent it over to Abdella, who also used his head and pushed the ball past goalie Andre Perez-Santalla and into the upper left corner of the goal for what proved to be the winning score.
The score was Abdella’s team-leading fifth goal of the season, and all of the junior’s scores have come in a five-game span.
“Zidan has got a nose for the goal; he sees the game,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Tom Breznitsky told TAPinto.net. “One of the things with forwards that you try to have them understand is that you’ve got to be able to see the goal scoring opportunity. A lot of guys don’t see a goal-scoring opportunity, but Zidan does.”
After scoring first, Scotch Plains-Fanwood had the luxury to simply manage the game for the remaining 48 minutes of play. Executing well on defense and controlling the ball for the majority of the game, the Raiders played a “nearly complete game,” according to "Coach Brez." They held the advantage in shots on goal over the Highlanders, 17-10, while goalie Aaron Schack had to make only three saves and just one after Abdella’s goal.
“Our overall play was very, very good -- the intensity was great. I thought we played a pretty close to complete game,” said Breznitsky. “It was 1-0, and we should’ve have two or three more goals. When you’re up, 1-0, at halftime, you manage the game. You don’t have to score anymore; you manage the game.”
While only one of the Raiders’ 17 shots found the back of the net, the team came very close to breaking the game wide open on multiple occasions throughout the second half. Among others, Brogan Quigley had a couple of seemingly lethal strikes in front of the goal sail just above the post. Gov. Livingston goalie Perez-Santalla also made some dazzling saves on close-range Raider shots.
Defensively, the Raiders did an exceptional job of shutting down a Highlander offense that came into Thursday’s match scalding hot. Gov. Livingston had scored nine goals in its previous three games entering Thursday, with Josiah Crawford, a St. John’s University commit, leading the charge. Crawford has scored 10 total goals on the season and posed to be the biggest threat for the Raiders’ defense.
“You can’t let that particular type of thing happen — you can’t let one player beat you,” Breznitsky said. “We really didn’t pay a great amount of attention to him in the first half. With Jon Schwab, I told him to not mark him man-to-man, but pay a little more attention. The kid had a helluva shot — and we had a great save — in the first 10 minutes … other than that, I don’t think he really had any other solid opportunities.”
For a program with a tradition in excellence, reaching .500 may not seem like a big deal, but at one point just last week, the Raiders had just one win in seven contests. The power surge has come at the right time; the Union County tournament continues Saturday against Dayton. Meanwhile, the remaining regular season games will impact state tournament seeding.
“For us, it’s a great win — our 12th game — and with power points, we pick up a decent amount,” said Breznitsky. “I’ve been very encouraged with the way things have gone.”