FIRST SETTLERS 1, WILDCATS 0
It was a good game for goalkeepers, current and former goalkeepers alike.
In an entertaining non-league boys soccer match that saw one goalkeeper turn in an exceptional performance and another goalkeeper save a penalty kick, it was a former goalkeeper of all people, Kenji Fujita, who scored the game’s only goal.
Fujita, a senior forward, struck a brilliant first-timer off a driven centering ball from Shayne Johnson with 8 minutes 13 seconds left in the first half, and the goal stood for Southold’s 1-0 victory over visiting Shoreham-Wading River on Tuesday.
It’s striking how well Fujita moves as field player. Then again, he is hardly new to playing the field. Although he was Southold’s No. 1 goalkeeper last year, he saw some time in the field and scored 3 goals. He played as an outside midfielder for his travel team, the Center Moriches Huskies, last spring, and also ran for Southold in a summer league.
In the meantime, Southold has a new first-string goalkeeper, John Charles Funke. The aggressive junior was outstanding in the Southold goal, making 8 saves for his first career shutout.
“He’s crazy,” Fujita said. “He has no concern for his body. He goes out there every day, just a hundred percent.”
When Shoreham-Wading River turned up the pressure later in the second half, Funke came up big, making a reflex kick save on Zachary McAuley and then fisting away Jack DelDuca’s follow-up shot. Funke was also aided in the second half by a goal-line clearance from Brian Hallock.
“He made some great, great saves,” said Southold coach Andrew Sadowski.
Southold (2-0) nearly tacked on a second goal when Shoreham-Wading River goalkeeper Adam Piotrowski (8 saves) was judged to have fouled Will Richter. But the 6-foot-2 Piotrowski kept his side in the game by springing to his left and knocking aside Richter’s penalty kick 7:25 into the second half.
Southold’s Drew Sacher nearly tacked on an insurance goal late in the contest. After expertly controlling the ball with his right foot, Sacher sliced forward and directed a shot that crashed off the crossbar.
After a rather flat first hour, Shoreham-Wading River (0-2), as if reacting to a belated wake-up call, picked up its play dramatically over the final 20 minutes but wasn’t rewarded with an equalizer.
“We didn’t start playing until the last 20 minutes,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Andrew Moschetti said. “The last 20 minutes, all of a sudden, it’s a different team on the field.”
Referring to the close scoring chances his team had, Piotrowski said, “Sometimes I wish I could just go down there and do something.”
Having played their season opener just the day before — a 3-2 loss to Kings Park despite 2 goals from Doug DeMaio — the Wildcats rested three banged up starters on Tuesday: Anthony Cusano, Daniel Mahoney and Kyle Pendergast.
Southold won its season opener, 3-2, over Hampton Bays on Saturday, with its goals coming from Hallock, Sacher and Richter. Tuesday’s game was the continuation of a good start to the season for the First Settlers, although they did get a scare when Fujita got hurt with 27:42 remaining. He put little pressure on his right foot as he was helped off the field, and it didn’t look good. Nine minutes later, however, he re-entered the game. Fujita said he believed it was a cramping issue, and he was determined to get back on the field as soon as he could.
“I don’t come here to just sit,” he said. “I come out here to play hard every day.”
Fujita’s work ethic has become his trademark. Sadowski said it is no surprise why Fujita has been doing well in his second soccer life as a field player.
“Obviously, the big reason why he’s playing so well is because of what he does on the training grounds,” Sadowski said. “If you don’t train hard and you’re not open to being a better player, you won’t be a better player. He is everything that I could possibly ask. He is an excellent teammate. He is an extremely hard worker, and his skill continues to improve.”
Fujita said he enjoys playing forward, but he seemed stuck when asked what position he prefers to play.
“There are things that I miss about goalie,” he said. “I wish I could do both, but that’s not really possible.”