PORTERS 4, CRUSADERS 1
With the score tied at 1-1 in the 36th minute, Smithtown Christian forward John Kim struck a fierce shot that had goal written all over it. The soccer ball, however, had other ideas. It hit the underside of the crossbar, bounced high off the ground and landed safely in Greenport/Shelter Island goalkeeper Michael Reed’s arms.
Less than a minute later, Bryant Rivas slammed in a close-range shot to put Greenport/Shelter Island ahead, 2-1. The Porters went on to a 4-1 win, clinching their first playoff berth in three years on Monday. What a difference a year makes.
Referring to Kim’s goal that almost was, Greenport/Shelter Island coach Chris Golden said: “Last year, that ball would have been in the net. That’s the difference. This year, instead of not getting those breaks, we’re getting the breaks.”
It helps when the ball bounces your way.
That surely wasn’t the case last year for the Porters. They went 2-14, with 10 of those losses coming by one goal, an astounding statistic.
Well, better days have arrived. The Porters (5-6-2, 5-2-2 in Suffolk County League VIII) have found ways to get positive results. By Golden’s count, the team has players from seven nations with complementary playing styles.
“They each bring a different style and flavor,” he said. “In my five seasons [as the team’s coach], this is the most likeable group of kids that I’ve had, and it’s also probably the hardest-working group, collectively. … Kids understand their roles and they’re really buying into it, and you know what, we’re meeting with success.”
Andrew Semon, a senior right wing, said, “Every kid has their own tricks and moves and specific kicks.”
Camilo Torres (seven goals, five assists), Erick Ramirez (six goals, one assist) and Edwin Arias (two goals, four assists) have led the offense.
And the Porters have something else: a lot of heart. That’s something Golden can appreciate.
“This team is playing hard right from the start through the finish,” he said. “They’re entertaining, to say the least.”
Monday’s action-packed match at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field didn’t lack for entertainment value. Ramirez scored two goals and Semon added a goal and an assist for the Porters, who held a 21-10 advantage in shots, playing their direct style. Smithtown Christian’s goalkeeper, George Flores, was kept busy, making 10 saves.
The game was only five minutes old when a Torres shot through a thicket of legs was blocked by Flores, but Semon pounced on the rebound for the opening tally.
Smithtown Christian (0-8-2, 0-6-2) pulled even with a beauty of a goal just two minutes later. After receiving a pass from Alec Adeclat, Kim chipped a ball from the right wing perfectly to the upper left corner of the goal, just beyond Reed’s reach.
Ramirez was denied a goal in the 46th minute when he connected on a feed from Omar Machado, only to see the ball blocked on the goal line by defender Dominick Damon.
No matter. Ramirez got his goals. He ran forward to head in a pass from Arias in the 53rd minute. Then, four minutes from the the end, he slammed in his seventh shot of the day from a goalmouth scramble after a Julio Anaya corner kick.
“We did a great job,” Rivas said. “We’re just clicking as a team now.”
The game may have changed with that Kim shot off the crossbar and the Porters’ quick reply.
“It could have turned the game around a little bit,” Smithtown Christian coach Pat Nieto said. “We had a lot of good passing on the ground. We were able to penetrate, take those shots. Nothing went in.”
The Porters, who have played musical chairs at sweeper this season, had James Read, a central midfielder, play the position for the first time. Read joined outside backs Matt Dibble and Anaya and defensive midfielder Jesus Duran in holding off the Crusaders.
At various times this season, Sean Charters, Ramirez and Duran have played sweeper. Charters had an ailing knee and was standing on the sideline with the aid of crutches on Monday.
What the Porters are doing seems to be working, though. Torres scored Saturday in a 1-0 defeat of the Southold First Settlers. In their last five games, the Porters have outscored opponents, 13-4.
That’s the kind of run a team wants to be on with the playoffs fast approaching. The postseason was something the Porters had thought about at the start of the season and set as a goal.
Said Semon, “We’re in there now.”