SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD -- Games that end 1-0 are either very positive or very negative for a soccer team. For the Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys’ team this fall, 1-nil games have become the norm, and two-thirds of the time, not in a good way.
Saturday afternoon, in the team’s third of three games decided by a 1-0 score, the Raiders of Scotch Plains were defeated by the Raiders of North Brunswick, 1-0, as Scotch Plains’ early season struggles and bad luck continued.
Playing to a scoreless tie with the Middlesex County team for 64 minutes, SP-F’s defense suffered a bit of a miscommunication in the 65th minute. David Rodriguez of North Brunswick took advantage of Scotch Plains’ falter and sent a pass to teammate Isai Aguilar.
With the clear path to the goal and Scotch Plains netminder Aaron Schack -- who had made phenomenal saves all afternoon -- leaving a vacated slot in the right side of the net, Aguilar pushed a shot to the opening that a diving Schack was able to slightly get both his hands on. However, Aguilar played the ball through Schack and netted the game’s only goal, leading to North Brunswick’s victory.
“There was a little bit of a miscommunication between my center backs and me. The ball was bouncing, and I had it with two hands, and one of their strikers came running through me and forced me to drop the ball,” said Schack. “I know, myself, I had two hands on it, but the assistant and head referee both didn’t see it.”
Luck not being on the Union County Raiders’ side was on on full display in the third minute of the second half. Alex Ferrera connected on a beautiful strike in front of the goal that sailed above the hands of North Brunswick goalie Randall Graham, but instead smacked crossbar and bounced down inches in front of the goal.
“You don’t like to have that situation happen, but it does happen,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Tom Breznitsky. “It’s a big shock, because in Scotch Plains, historically, this type of stuff hasn’t happened.”
What also hasn’t historically happened with SPF has been shaky defense. While this year’s D has only allowed two goals in three games, the team knows it can certainly improve and tighten up many aspects of its game.
“Our defense, at this particular point, is unstable. We really have had no constancy in the defense,” said coach Breznitsky. “Some of it is a result of injuries, some of it is a lack of consistency in the guys that are on there. I have not been pleased, at all, with our defense.”
On the other side of the ball, the offense continues struggling to finish scoring opportunities. The team had plenty of looks, shooting 17 shots on goal, but just couldn’t convert like it is capable of. Only scoring one goal in its first three games — last year, it scored 15 in that span — the Raiders have had to play with practically no margin for error.
“I know our strikers are capable of finishing this year. They’re just off to a little shaky start, but we’ll work on that and they’ll find their groove, start getting balls in the back of the net,” said Aaron Schack, who has become a vocal leader of the team between the posts. “We need to start turning around the season.”
The Raiders can begin to turn the ship Tuesday, when they look to return to .500 while playing host to Linden — a team they clobbered 7-0 last season.