SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — An Opening Day shocker at Wexler Field saw the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders boys soccer team upset, 1-0, by a Summit Hilltoppers team that came in with energy and early offense.
Eight minutes into the game, Javier Del Cid of Summit found the ball in his possession after the Hilltoppers intercepted a Raider pass at midfield. On the right hand side of the box, Del Cid sent a cross to Michael Greenstein who headed it passed Scotch Plains goalie Aaron Schack and into the back of the net.
"We’ve been going at it with this team for the past three years and it’s been tough -- they beat us when I was a sophomore in penalty shout outs in counties and last year on a free kick," said Greenstein. "It finally came, it happened so fast, but it was unbelievable; it was amazing.”
On the other side, Scotch Plains-Fanwood was feeling the effects of its first Opening Day loss in three years.
“A 1-0 game in a soccer match, especially a high school soccer match, is: Maybe the ball hits a bottle cap, goes the wrong direction. I don’t know, I didn’t see exactly what happened on the goal,” said Scotch Plains head coach Tom Breznitsky. “It’s disappointing, because it’s something uncharacteristic that doesn’t happen with Scotch Plains boys’ soccer.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood was unable to overcome its 1-0 deficit and for 72 minutes, battled to no avail. The offense was only able to fire off three shots on goal, as it was stopped by a determined Summit defense. However, while it only delivered those three shots on goal, the three that the Raiders had were good looks. On back-to-back attempts, Brogan Quigley and Ryan Widman were both denied on acrobatic saves by Summit’s Ford.
While it was only able to muster three legitimate scoring opportunities, Scotch Plains-Fanwood did not benefit from officiating, which on Tuesday was a three-man crew. In the first five minutes of play, a Hilltopper defender slide-tackled Raiders’ Anthony Miguelino, who possessed the ball and was running down the field. The Summit player could’ve been given a red card, but he was only carded with a yellow. As a result, Jonathan Schwab was awarded a free kick but could not convert.
“It was very questionable with the foul on Miguelino. If it’s the last man in the defense, if you take the guy out, it’s an automatic red card. He was the last man in on goal, and it was a red card, but it wasn’t called,” said Breznitsky. “That changed the game.”
Then in the waning minutes of the game, Summit goalie James Ford appeared to pick up the ball on a save, drop it, and pick it up again. No penalty was called, however, and the Raiders missed out on yet another scoring chance.
Despite allowing the goal eight minutes in, the Raiders’ defense recollected itself and played a solid game the rest of the way, wasting any Summit opportunity. Keeper Aaron Schack also overcame allowing the goal early on, posting three saves.
"I told the kids at the end of the game: 'I can’t fault you as a coach. The second half, you gave everything that you could possibly give; as a player, you gave everything that you can give. You as a player gave all you can, and that’s all you can ask of yourself, and that’s all I can ask of you, as a coach," Breznitsky said.
They didn’t score, but the Raiders played a much crisper game in the second half. Utilizing its strong depth and toned physical skills, SP-F fought toe-to-toe with Summit.
“We’re in a little bit better shape than a lot of these teams, and I think that we have depth that we can rely upon. And that showed up in the second half,” said Coach “Brez.”
“As I told them at halftime, I said ‘Look, out of the scrimmages that we’ve had, four out of six of them, we played our best in the second half; that’s what we did here."
Scotch Plains-Fanwood has an opportunity to wash away the disappointment of Tuesday, as they bounce back quickly with an away match at Plainfield on Thursday. The game will start at 4 p.m. with the pitch set for Planifield’s Hub Stine Field.
“It’s my job, along with them, to get us back, forget about it, and not lick our wounds,” says Breznitsky.