When someone suggested to J.C. Perez that the Greenport defenders would sleep well later that night, he slowly shook his head, as if trying to shake off a bad dream.
Perez and the rest of the Greenport defense was kept awfully busy Monday, especially during a frenzied first half in which it was under assault by a relentless, talented Center Moriches attack that produced four goals within a span of 29 minutes and 20 seconds. The damage could have been worse if not for some off-target shooting and the goalkeeping of Felipe Solis and Joshua Santacroce.
When it was over, Center Moriches walked off a 5-0 winner in the Suffolk County League VII boys soccer game at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field.
“It was, yes, terrible from the start,” said Drew Wolf, who played defense and center midfield for Greenport (4-7, 4-7). “We were just asleep at the back and [in] the midfield we just couldn’t really get the ball out of our half.”
As the Porters saw it, it was a continuation of a trend they have noticed of the team getting off to a good or bad start, and then playing the rest of the game that way.
“When we’re clicking, we’re a great team,” Wolf said. “When we pass the ball and use our options and play like we practice, it works well, but when it breaks down, it breaks down badly, as you saw today.”
Of course, Center Moriches, winner of the last three Suffolk Class B titles and two years removed from a state championship, had something to do with that. Coach Chris O’Brien’s Red Devils bring a quality game from goalkeeper to the front line. Goalkeepers Colin Raupp and Josh Lehr shared the team’s fourth straight shutout with a combined three saves.
Adding injury to insult, Greenport was without two regular starting midfielders for the second straight game. Junior Kevin Azama and senior Christopher Kuczynski are both out with knee injuries.
Azama was on hand to watch Monday’s game from the sideline. “He’s not going be back for the rest of this week,” coach Greg Dlhopolsky said. “He can’t come back until he has a doctor’s note at this point, and he has an appointment next week, so hopefully we get him back sometime next week. Not only does he have experience, he’s also one of our captains. He’s one of our better players, so not having him has hurt.”
Kuczynski’s situation sounds more complicated. “His injury seems pretty significant,” Dlhopolsky said. “He hasn’t even been back in school since he got injured.”
Aside from the caliber of play those two players offer, they are also experienced veterans.
“It’s honestly more just the bodies, being able to rotate guys and rest,” Wolf said. “We’re so short on numbers, we had to bring up two kids from JV the last couple of games. So, having people that can come in off the bench and provide good touches is something seldom found.”
Most of the good touches on Monday came from Center Moriches boots. As if that wasn’t enough, Greenport played against a considerable wind in the first half, a half in which the Porters were outshot, 11-3.
Michael Luongo (his team-leading ninth of the season), Liam O’Brien (No. 4 of the season), Joe Luongo (No. 4) and Ryan McDermott (No. 4) deposited first-half goals before Liam McDermott (No. 3) tacked on the fifth. Even Raupp, the goalkeeper who played the first half, got in on the scoring act for Center Moriches (9-2-1, 9-2-1). He was credited with an assist on Luongo’s opening goal 3:43 into the match. Liam McDermott, Ryan McDermott and Liam O’Brien also had assists.
The score could have been even more one-sided. Solis, who did not return for the second half because of a nagging ankle injury, parried a fierce drive by Byron Miguel-Perez over the crossbar. Moments later, Solis did well to reel in a tricky cross on the goal’s doorstep. Santacroce, who had been playing defense with Elber Ochoa, Alan Morales, Steven Merino, Perez and Wolf, made a pair of nice saves.
Since Greenport is already assured of a .500 record against Class C teams, Dlhopolsky believes the defending Long Island Class C champions have already booked themselves a place in the playoffs.
“When we play well, we can play with anybody in the league. Today we didn’t play well,” Dlhopolsky said. “Physically, I know we can play with teams. Today, I think what you saw was really more of a mental breakdown than anything else.”
Photo caption: Center Moriches’ Sam Schrage looks for room to deliver a cross while Greenport’s Alan Morales closes in on him during the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)