All the ingredients were there for a letdown.
In their previous game six days earlier, the Mattituck Tuckers had scored an eyebrow-raising win over the Sayville Golden Flashes, the defending New York State Class A boys soccer champions. On Monday, the Tuckers faced a significantly weaker, although improved, opponent in the Wyandanch Warriors. Not only that, but the Warriors arrived late at Mattituck High School, delaying the start of the game. There was the danger that the Tuckers could have been thrown off their game.
It didn’t happen.
After the Tuckers struck for five goals, lightning struck, cutting the Suffolk County League VII game short by about 20 minutes, and leaving them with a clean 5-0 result. David Burkhardt and Mario Arreola had a goal and an assist each.
Mattituck Coach Mat Litchhult must have appreciated the Tuckers’ business-like approach. So far this season, the Tuckers (6-2, 3-1) have shown that they can beat a quality team (see Sayville), but at the same time they can also drop games, like they did to the East Hampton Bonackers and the Southampton Mariners. That can be unnerving. It surely must keep the Tuckers on their toes.
“There hasn’t been a match yet this year where I was a hundred-percent confident that we could just step on the field and win,” Litchhult said. “We have to bring our best game, and when we do, we’re very good. And when we don’t … we can get beat.”
But if their 2-0 victory over Sayville is anything to judge by, the Tuckers have a quality side of their own.
“Oh, it felt good,” said Burkhardt, a junior central midfielder who already has five goals to his credit. “Some of the kids from my travel team play for them. We were really itching for a big win.”
Arreola, a freshman striker, said: “We can win any game. We can beat a big team.”
The win over Sayville could have been seen as a statement game for the Tuckers, an indication of just what they are capable of achieving.
They surely have depth. Thirty Tuckers were dressed for Monday’s game.
“I could probably go 18, 19, 20 deep with not a huge drop-off, and that’s a huge testament to the guys,” said Litchhult.
Despite playing their first game in six days — the second half in rain — the Tuckers looked sharp against Wyandanch (1-4, 1-4).
Perhaps no one moreso than Burkhadt, who completed 15 of 22 passes, took five shots and touched the ball 27 times.
Burkhardt was involved in perhaps the two nicest goals of the game. He opened the scoring just 2 minutes 57 seconds into the match. After receiving a short corner kick from Christian Tettelbach, Burkhardt dribbled to his left, just outside the penalty area, and fired a lethal left-footed rocket that beat goalkeeper Rodrigo Reyes to the low right corner. Later, with 1:45 left in the half, it was Burkhardt who delivered a splendid corner kick that Ryan Finger masterfully headed into the net.
Headed goals have become a Mattituck rarity, it seems. “It’s almost like a miracle for us to use our head to score a goal,” Litchhult said. “It’s a dying art, heading, in Mattituck.”
Burkhardt is basically an 80-minute player. Litchhult was dismayed when at one point during the game he noticed Burkhardt standing on the sideline, talking to an assistant coach, Pete Hansen.
“I almost had a heart attack when I looked over and I saw him talking to the JV coach, Coach Hansen,” Litchhult said. “My first thought was, ‘Was he hurt?’ And my second thought was he’d be talking to the trainer if he was hurt. Then, why was he not on the field?”
Chalk it up to miscommunication on a substitution. Seconds later, Burkhardt was back on the field.
Burkhardt was unfortunate not to have scored two more goals; he was denied by Reyes on two golden chances.
In between the goals Burkhardt scored and set up were successful strikes by Kevin Williams and Arreola. Williams knocked a ball from Arreola into an open goal in the 26th minute, and Arreola finished off a nice sequence in the 32nd minute. Finger had floated a ball down the right side that Stephen Urwand chased down before feeding Arreola for his fourth goal of the season.
With darkness descending, Kevin Izzo hammered in the final goal, assisted by Tyler Connell, just as lightning struck. Seconds later, officials called the game, and the Tuckers had another win in the book.
Mattituck outshot Wyandanch by 28-6.
Stephen Ostrowski, a sophomore goalkeeper who made his first varsity start, shared the shutout with Austin Scoggin. Scoggin stopped all four of the shots that the Warriors put on goal.
Wyandanch was coming off a milestone win over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs last week. It was the Warriors’ first win since 1987, according to their coach, James Bopp. But Bopp knew what his team was facing in the Tuckers. During the 90-minute bus ride to Mattituck, he told his players that Mattituck and Southampton are the league’s best teams and this was a big test for the Warriors.
“They got a long history, and they played wonderful today,” Bopp said of the Tuckers. “Their guys, they’re really good. They pass the ball around there and they talk and they know their positions, and they play tough, a really good team.”
He added, “We still got to see them one more time, and this time they get to take the bus ride.”