TUCKERS 2, MARINERS 1
Free-kick taking is an art, and what Kevin Williams crafted on Tuesday was a thing of beauty. At least in Mattituck eyes.
For over an hour of play in the Southampton-Mattituck boys soccer game, neither team had scored, and one began to wonder if either would before the day was over. Then, in the 64th minute, Mattituck was awarded a direct free kick 28 yards in front of the Southampton goal.
Mattituck’s free-kick responsibilities are shared by the left-footed Kaan Ilgin and Williams, who prefers his right foot. Ilgin deferred to Williams, and the junior central defender stepped up to take the kick.
What makes taking a direct free kick in such situations so tricky is that the kicker must strike the ball high enough to go over the defensive wall, yet not so high that it rises over the crossbar. At the same time, the shot must have the power and the placement to beat the goalkeeper.
Williams’ attempt had all of the above.
“I thought it was going to hit the crossbar, and in the last second it looked like it dipped a lot,” he said.
The ball flew into the net, to the right of flying goalkeeper Garrett Pike for Williams’ first goal of the young season. It was the sort of goal players dream about.
“You just can’t teach that,” Mattituck’s attacking center midfielder, James Hayes, said admiringly. “That was a great goal.”
It was the first of 3 goals within a span of 3 minutes 43 seconds in the Suffolk County League VII game, leaving Mattituck with a 2-1 victory in its home opener. Hayes spotted Mattituck a 2-0 lead 2:20 after Williams’ strike.
But it was the first goal, the ice-breaker, that was the most impressive.
“I’ve seen him take shots like that in practice, and he did it again,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “You know, it’s tough to get that kind of a swerve on a ball.”
Moments after the first goal, Ilgin slid a cutting pass into the penalty area for Hayes, who then slid the ball under Pike for a 2-0 lead and Hayes’ second goal of the season.
Ilgin is a tremendously skilled player. “His technical ability on the ball is some of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Litchhult.
The junior forward had 49 touches on the ball, put 3 of his 4 shots on goal, and connected on 21 of 29 passes.
If Williams’ goal loosened things up for the Tuckers (2-1, 2-0), the second goal may have made them feel too loose, said Litchhult. “I think the 2-nothing lead hurt us a little bit because I think we relaxed and we thought the game was over.”
Southampton (2-2, 1-2) pulled itself back in the game 1:23 later when Elliot LaGuardia knocked the ball between goalkeeper Steve Ostrowski’s legs.
Four minutes into the game, Ilgin nearly set up a goal by Mario Arreola, only to see Southampton’s Tyler Wisner clear the ball.
Another close call came six minutes into the second half when Hayes passed to Oswaldo Aldaz, whose creative flick nearly reached the net before Southampton’s Kevin Dexter booted the ball to safety.
Mattituck survived a couple of threatening shots by Southampton’s Ezekiel Martinez that barely missed their target in the second half.
All in all, it was a good showing by the Tuckers.
“We strung so many passes and they couldn’t touch it,” Hayes said. “It’s just good to watch.”
Mattituck, a New York State Class B semifinalist last year, once again has plenty of talent. At the same time, the team is young. Only two of Mattituck’s 25 players are seniors, Aldaz and Ostrowski. Expectations are high.
“I’d say this is one of the best teams that Mattituck has ever had,” Hayes said. “I know we can go to states and I’m positive we can win it; it’s just a matter of the hard work we can put in like we did last year.”
An occasional goal off a set piece wouldn’t hurt, either.
Williams is the first to acknowledge that the majority of free kicks don’t find their mark, instead sailing over the crossbar, going wide or hitting the wall.
“You never really know where it’s going to go,” Williams said. “It has to be perfect. It’s more of a 1-in-10-shot chance, but I guess I got it. I hit it.”