The great Johan Cruyff and the Netherlands national team that he played for revolutionized soccer in the 1970s with the system of “total football” that the Dutch employed. It’s a fluid system designed to make a team fully committed to offense when it has the ball and fully committed to defending when it doesn’t.
Pete Hansen, the new coach of the Mattituck High School girls soccer team, is an aficionado of Dutch soccer. Guess what style of soccer the Tuckers will be playing this season?
“Total football” is coming to Mattituck.
“It’s entertaining,” Hansen said. “It’s fun to watch.”
Hansen has taken over the Tuckers from Ed Barbante, who was fired earlier this year after going 68-27-14 (.624) during his six years as Mattituck’s coach. This is Hansen’s first varsity girls soccer coaching job, although he has coached varsity boys for Horace Mann in the Bronx (as an assistant), Copiague and Riverhead. He utilized the Dutch style the past two years as the Mattituck boys junior varsity coach.
The Tuckers (9-7-1 last season) hope their new system, which will operate out of either a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation, will help them clear the hurdle they have faced in recent years — Center Moriches.
Mattituck and Center Moriches have met in the past two Suffolk County Class B finals. Last November, on the strength of two second-half goals by Alexis Parlato, Center Moriches collected its third straight county title with a 2-0 win over Mattituck. It was the third year in a row in which Center Moriches bounced Mattituck out of the playoffs. The Tuckers last won a county crown in 2008.
Mattituck lost a four-year player to graduation in Liz Lasota, who led the team with 15 goals last season. But the Tuckers may have a potent strike force in senior strikers Lauren Guja and Alex Berkoski.
The senior-laden team has over a dozen 12th-graders. Among them are left back Shannon Gatz, center midfielder Nicole Murphy, stopper Anna Goeller, right midfielder Maryanne Fitzgerald, striker/defender Lindsay Taylor, center midfielder Amanda Gatz (Shannon’s cousin), and goalkeepers Melissa Siegfried and Stephanie Reisenberg.
Nikki Zurawski, a sophomore sweeper, and Kyle Freudenberg, a junior right back, will help fortify the defense.
Asked about Center Moriches, Hansen said: “I’m not really worried about other people. A lot of teams are going to throw stuff at us, but it’s going to come down to how we play.”
“The girls are definitely very united,” he continued. “There’s a very good feeling around the practice camp. We’re ready to go. I think a lot of teams are going to play catch-up with us.”
Hansen said his team has the talent and the depth to succeed. And the games the Tuckers play in, he said, shouldn’t be boring.
“There’s not going to be a lot of zero-zero games, I tell you that,” he said. “Winning is fun and playing attacking football is fun. I will not attack with one player. Our attack starts with our goalie.”
Such talk would undoubtedly bring a smile to Johan Cruyff’s face.
One year removed from a two-win season in which it did not have the benefit of a junior varsity team, Southold/Greenport made substantial progress last year, falling one win shy of a playoff berth.
“It’s a tremendous step for the program,” second-year coach Katy Smith said. “I was very proud of last season. I thought that they did a great job.”
And although Smith wouldn’t label this as a rebuilding season, the Clippers remain a young team, with a number of sophomores expected to be brought up from the reconstituted junior varsity team. Even so, Smith said the next step, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009, is within the team’s reach.
Southold/Greenport has three leading players from three areas of the field giving the team a push. Justina Babcock, a junior center midfielder, was an all-conference player last year. “I think she is someone who everyone looks up to on the team,” said Smith.
Playing in front of her is senior striker Jessica Carr, an all-league player. “She’s very skilled and can beat a lot of defenders,” said Smith.
Another all-league selection, sophomore Isabelle Simon, is the sweeper. “Isabelle is probably the rock of our defense,” Smith said. “She understands her position completely.”
Meanwhile, junior winger Cindy Van Bourgondien and her cousin, sophomore center midfielder Megan Van Bourgondien, were starters last year along with sophomore striker Juliane Van Gorden. Megan Van Bourgondien, however, is not immediately available to play, having sustained a concussion while playing for another team. Smith said she is not sure when Megan Van Bourgondien will be back on the field.
Another varsity veteran, senior Shanice Strickland, can play goalkeeper or defender. Willow Sutton, a sophomore striker/winger, is new to the team.
The varsity and junior varsity teams had not been split up by Friday morning, leaving Smith with a number of personnel decisions to make. She said she is more comfortable, however, knowing what to expect this year and what her players are capable of doing.