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Boys Soccer: McKenna gets passing grade for his assists

If a player on the Mattituck boys soccer team is looking for a helping hand — or, perhaps more accurately, a helping foot — the player providing that assistance would likely be Erik McKenna. McKenna is a virtual assist machine.

That comes in part from McKenna’s position as a center midfielder, but it’s also in his soccer DNA. He’s a natural-born playmaker with the vision and skill to put a ball where it needs to be.

“I’m not much of a goal-scorer,” McKenna said. “Passing is kind of my strength, I would say. I like being the person to set up the plays. I try to score, but I do better facilitating the ball.”

And how.

McKenna has amassed 13 assists to go with two goals through 10 games. His most recent two assists came Monday on Andy Catalan’s first two goals of the season in a 4-1 rain-drenched win at Port Jefferson.

“He knows where to put a ball when,” said Catalan, the senior forward who missed the first half of the season with a broken collarbone suffered during summer league play.

McKenna’s style isn’t anything new. Last season he registered five goals and nine assists.

“The really cool thing this year is he’s still the same guy, he’s the playmaker,” coach Dan O’Sullivan said. “He distributes the ball. He kind of sets guys up.”

Players like Erick Morales and Sean Szcotka, who have six goals each, are the beneficiaries. “We have a lot of guys scoring,” said O’Sullivan.

Both teams faced the daunting prospect of playing the Suffolk County League V match in driving rain and wind on a slick, grass playing surface.

“I played in games that’s been like this, but it just honestly just makes it so much harder,” McKenna said. “It brings the intensity up like 10 times. The ball’s skipping and everyone’s on the ground, mud everywhere. It’s crazy.”

Catalan came off the bench to put Mattituck (7-2-1, 7-2-1) ahead, 2-0, with 9 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half. McKenna supplied a ball to the left side that the onrushing Catalan powered in with his left foot. The second Catalan goal, a right-footed drive inside the left goalpost, came off a McKenna corner kick and made it 3-1 with 22:44 remaining in the game.

“It was impressive,” Catalan said. “Andy really showed what he can do today.”

Perhaps the most impressive goal of the day, however, came off the boot of Kaden Khan, who lofted a high-arcing shot off the inside of the far left post, making it 4-1 with 4:52 to go. Justin Fox assisted.

Wesley Secaida’s penalty kick, which he buried into the low left, opened the scoring at 25:02.

Port Jefferson (1-9, 1-9) cut Mattituck’s lead to 2-1 through Jonah Pflaster at 50:08. Kyle Erickson’s long free kick was headed by Pflaster over goalkeeper Jack Golder.

Port Jefferson goalkeeper Jonathan Boswell, who entered the game with a Suffolk-leading 89 saves, according to Newsday, added eight to that total. Among them was a fine reflex stop on Catalan.

“It definitely made it a lot harder than what we’re used to,” Catalan said of the challenging weather conditions. “Slipping around the ball, it can go anywhere but where you think it will go, but we pushed through to get that win.”

O’Sullivan noted that Mattituck plays on a grass field at home, “but the wind and cold, freezing rain in your face, that was not something that we were expecting. I mean, I was watching the weather all day. I knew it was kind of hit or miss. I wasn’t sure what we were gonna get. A win’s a win. I know the boys said that, too, and that’s how you have to look at it, but it definitely wasn’t pretty.”

McKenna and center back Sean Lawson, a first-year player, are the only two starting seniors for the junior-laden Tuckers.

With its third straight win, Mattituck can clinch a playoff berth with a home win over Babylon Thursday night. Babylon defeated Mattituck in last year’s Suffolk Class B final. The Tuckers want to return to the county final and get a different result this time.

“A lot of these guys are back” from last season, O’Sullivan said. “A lot of them are hungry and we always talked about that bus ride home, how emotional it was for all the seniors and just knowing that we were that close, but just couldn’t get it done. So this group is hungry.”

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