WESTFIELD — Both the Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield boys’ soccer teams have had trouble scoring goals so far in 2017. So, when the two rivals met up Saturday with each in search of a statement win, a 1-0 result came at no surprise.
It was also not especially surprising that it was Westfield taking the one goal to hand the Raiders the defeat, because horrible luck has now seen all of Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s five losses come on 1-0 scores, as the Raiders fell to 1-5 on the season despite battling hard for 80 full minutes, the way they have in all six games so far.
In front of a packed, ear-piercing Gary Kehler Stadium, Westfield and Scotch Plains-Fanwood played to a scoreless tie for the first 57 minutes of an evenly-matched soccer game.
With scoring chances few and far to come by, everything changed in the 58th minute. That’s when Westfield’s Brian Hinkle gained possession of the ball and sent a beautiful through-pass to teammate Jack Dobosiewicz, who was alone with Scotch Plains defender Michael Dieu down the field.
Dobosiewicz soon broke free when Dieu suddenly fell down with a leg cramp, let Hinkle’s pass bounce once, and then rocketed a ground-ball shot off his left foot that eluded Scotch Plains goalkeeper Aaron Schack. The ball kept rolling before it eventually found a home in the bottom left corner of the goal to provide the senior with his first goal of the year, and Westfield with the lone score, which proved to win the game.
“It felt really good, because they’re [Scotch Plains] our biggest rivals, and I also haven’t scored a goal all season,” Dobosiewicz said. “To get my first goal against our biggest rival in one of the biggest games of the season is obviously a great feeling.
“It’s always good to get the ball at my feet in open space, because I know that I’m talented and I know that I can do a lot with the ball. All I needed was one chance, and I made the most of it.”
While Dobosiewicz made the most out of his scoring chance, Westfield made the most of its air-tight defense, which became the fifth team to shutout Scotch Plains-Fanwood this season.
“It’s tremendously frustrating, because of the fact that a 1-0 game is a game that you had just as much of an opportunity to win as the opposing team,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Tom Breznitsky. “I don’t want to sound like a broken clock, but it just seems to be the fact that there’s always some little [darn] thing that happens. On the goal today, Michael Dieu cramped, fell to the ground and that’s how the Westfield kid got through.”
Scotch Plains didn’t have many threatening opportunities to score, but it did have one. Midway through the game, Scotch Plains’ Ryan Widman fired a throw in that entered the box and deflected off Westfield goalie Josh Mendelson. Jack Hosmer collected the rebound and got a good shot off, but a diving Mendelson stopped the ball to keep Scotch Plains off the board.
“We’re struggling and don’t have anybody — guys who we thought were going to be converting our chances, opportunities on goal,” Coach Brez said. “It hasn’t been happening.”
The one positive of losing five of six games by a 1-nil score is that it means the losing team’s defense has played pretty well. This was again the case for Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which negated virtually all but one Westfield scoring chance. Despite allowing the goal today, the Raiders have held opponents to an average of under a goal-per-game on the season.
“Our defense has been good — maybe better than good,” the coach added.
The Raiders have a long break before looking to begin the road to recovering their season, when they host Bridgewater-Raritan in a 2016 sectional-final rematch next Saturday at 3:00 p.m.