Similarly to judging books by their covers, one should not judge a soccer team solely by its record. That’s especially true when comparing two teams from different classifications and leagues.
Records can be misleading and are hardly a foolproof measure of what a team can do on the field.
“Absolutely not,” said Southold coach Andrew Sadowski.
Not that host Southold did such a thing when considering Hampton Bays, which had entered Thursday’s non-league game with a 2-7-1 overall record. The Class C First Settlers, a Suffolk County League VII team, didn’t take anything for granted when they took the field against Class A/League VI Hampton Bays.
“They had a lot of talent on their team,” Southold left wing Joe Hayes said. “We expected them to have a lot of skill on the ball, chemistry together, stringing a lot of passes together.”
Hampton Bays had all of the above — and a 2-1 win, thanks to a pair of first-half strikes from Debin Rivera, his 10th and 11th of the season.
Southold (6-5, 6-3) had more pressing concerns than looking at team records, though. Foremost among them is the status of their leading goal scorer this season, Daniel Palencia. Palencia, a sophomore forward who has netted 11 goals, lasted only about 10 minutes before leaving the field with an injury. He did not return.
Sadowski said Palencia has been dealing with a thigh bruise. “He had an opportunity to sprint at the ball and he just didn’t,” the coach said. “That was just to see what he could do, and he had a scoring chance and he just didn’t take it. It’s not worth keeping him in, especially when we have the rest of our season still to go for.”
Hayes said: “Since he’s our best goal scorer this year, it’s obviously a huge concern because we got to try to figure out who’s going to take his role in a game, and that’s always tough. I’m sure he’ll be back next week and ready to go.”
Southold’s next game will not be until Tuesday at Port Jefferson, so Palencia has some time to rest the thigh.
Palencia’s finishing value to the Settlers is unquestioned.
“He’s been scoring,” Sadowski said, “quality shots, too, not just little dinky things.”
After Palencia went to the bench, Moises Blanco, an outside back, was moved to the front line to play alongside Joe Silvestro.
Blanco, known for his high work rate, made his mark. Just 19 seconds into the second half he scored, capping off a sequence that began with passes by Silvestro and Hayes.
“I’m not surprised that he scored a goal because he wants to be a go-to player and his teammates know what he’s capable of,” said Sadowski.
Rivera showed his shooting ability by curling a long-range shot into the upper right corner just 20 seconds after the opening kickoff. Then, with 6:37 left in the half, he snapped in a quick shot, assisted by Francisco Funez.
Moments after Blanco’s goal, Hampton Bays nearly restored its two-goal advantage. Tajay Dallas met a corner kick from Cris Vasquez with a first-time volley off the crossbar.
But Southold had picked up its game noticeably in the second half when it outshot Hampton Bays by 9-1. Hampton Bays goalkeeper Mickey Bracken was kept busy, making 11 saves.
Southold goalie Cole Brigham (three saves) did not need to make a save in the second half.
“The second half was the big improvement, but when you allow yourself to go down two goals, it’s a huge battle to come back, especially when you’re playing a [Class] A school,” said Sadowski.
The industrious Silvestro did what he could.
“He’s a huge player for us,” Hayes said. “He moves off the ball, everything, He creates space for others. He creates space for himself. He gives us a lot of scoring chances with him on the field.”
Silvestro saw the game as a lost opportunity.
“Today we should have won, I think,” the junior said, adding: “It just comes back to that consistency. We didn’t come out in the first half; they scored in the first 30 seconds.”
Even so, Silvestro said the Settlers, who have clinched a playoff berth, have already exceeded his expectations. Asked what he wants to get out of this season, his face lit up.
“I want to win the whole league,” he said. “We’re gunning for it.”
A healthy Palencia sure would help.
Photo caption: Southold’s Moises Blanco tries to make his way through Hampton Bays’ defensive wall of (from left) Cris Vasquez, Tajay Dallas and Francisco Funez in the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)