FIRST SETTLERS 3, PORTERS 0
Just in case there was any misunderstanding, Evan Miller showed that there is quality to go with the quantity of his goal production. That quantity is sizable, too.
With the two goals Miller bagged for the Southold boys soccer team on Thursday, the senior forward raised his season total to 24, which is remarkable enough, coming from 14 games. But it was Goal No. 23 for Miller — his first in Southold’s 3-0 defeat of visiting Greenport/Shelter Island — that really caused jaws to drop in amazement.
Drew Sacher initiated the sequence, supplying a ball on the right side for Ryan DiGregorio. DiGregorio, in turn, pushed a centering pass toward Miller, a supremely talented player who is full of surprises. Miller allowed the pass to run between his legs before he deftly used the heel of his right foot to direct the ball inside the left goalpost. The goal, which came 94 seconds into the second half, was the product of finesse and ingenuity, the sort of goal one doesn’t see every day.
“That was something crazy,” marveled Greenport/Shelter Island right back Angel Colon.
“Great goal,” Greenport/Shelter Island coach Chris Golden said. “You got to tip your hat to that type of finish.”
Even for a player of Miller’s ability, it was a special goal. He said he may have scored on a back heel once before for a club team. “That’s the first back heel for Southold,” he said.
While Southold coach Andrew Sadowski said he has seen Miller score even better goals than that one, he could appreciate the talent behind it. “I would attribute that type of a goal to a player that can smell the goal no matter where he is,” said Sadowski.
The win was the sixth in a row for Southold (11-3, 9-1 Suffolk County League VIII), which has outscored opponents by 23-4 during the winning streak and has pumped in 16 goals in three games.
“I’m very pleased with the goal production,” Sadowski said, “and most of the goals that we’ve been scoring are quality goals with very good team play.”
Ever since a 4-0 loss to Port Jefferson on Oct. 1, October has been kind to Southold. Sadowski moved some players around, and the First Settlers responded in a positive fashion.
“We were a little shaken up after that [loss to Port Jefferson], so we wanted to get back on our feet,” Miller said. “We couldn’t have done a better job, to be honest with you. We recuperated.”
Overshadowed somewhat by Miller’s goal scoring has been the play of Sacher, a junior forward who didn’t have a bad day himself on Thursday. Sacher was involved in all three Southold goals, including the one he scored himself in the 46th minute from an assist by Benjamin Glew. It was Sacher’s 12th goal of the season.
Sacher also assisted on the third goal, which Miller slammed in with 2:26 left in the game.
“They’re an excellent team,” Colon said. “They finish really well. I think we played with a lot of heart, a lot of intensity. Towards the end we kind of broke down. It’s something we have to work on.”
Kenji Fujita made five saves for his seventh shutout of the season. The best of those stops was a diving parry of a fierce blast by Erick Ramirez in the first half. It was a big save.
“Unfortunately, we’re the type of team that if we get the first goal, that helps us with our momentum,” Golden said. “So, we really need the first goal, and we had a couple of chances, and then we get frustrated a little bit if the ball doesn’t go into the net, and then we start to press and press.”
It was the fourth game in a row without a win for Greenport/Shelter Island (4-8-2, 4-4-2). The Porters need a win or two ties from their remaining two regular-season games against Pierson/Bridgehampton and The Ross School in order to secure their fourth playoff berth in six years.
Southold, which last won the league title three years ago, is chasing first-place Port Jefferson, the defending New York State Class C champion, for the league crown. Even without one of their senior captains, Rob Melly, who scored in a 1-0 win over Greenport/Shelter Island earlier in the season but was absent because of illness on Thursday, the First Settlers looked sharp in the rematch between the two rivals, who are based only eight miles from each other.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Sadowski.
Miller was his usual active self, taking seven shots, connecting on 9 of 13 passes and touching the ball 31 times. But it was one touch more than any other, the back-heel flick, that stands as the highlight of the game.
Said Miller, “Those are fun.”