Greenport 1, Southold 0 Like it or not, Milton Veliz is a marked young man.
During a soccer game, he has been pulled, pushed, grabbed and kicked by opposing defenders while he tries to score a goal for Greenport.
As several of Greenport’s foes have discovered this season, Veliz gets the best revenge and the last laugh.
He certainly had it on Monday evening, connecting for his Suffolk County leading 10th goal of the season in the Porters’ 1-0 League IX home win over archrival Southold in the pouring rain.
“I want to thank God that I scored, and we won,” Veliz said through an interpreter, midfielder and co-captain Luis Maye Masin.
Veliz might want to thank his skill, and nose for the goal, as well.
“You can possess the ball game, you can outplay the other team, but if you don’t put a ball in the net, you can’t win,” Greenport head coach Greg Dlhopolsky said. “We’re trying to work on all aspects, defensively, offensively. It definitely helps having a guy like Milton, who we know if he has a chance, there’s a good chance he’s going to score.
“He’s fast. He’s got a pretty good touch on the ball. He’s got a knack for being where he needs to be and putting the ball in the back of the net. He’s one of those classic strikers that knows how to put the ball in the net.”
Veliz joined Greenport midway through last season, accrued 10 goals in nine games and was a major factor in the team’s march to the Class D state semifinals.
“He was a new student and [his future teammates] had to convince him to play on the team, because I don’t think he really knew much about how it worked, because he had come from Guatemala,” Dlhopolsky said. “I don’t know if he wanted to be on the team or not.”
Dlhopolsky was quite happy that the Porters (3-4-0, 3-3-0) convinced Veliz.
Veliz has been held scoreless only twice this season and registered hat tricks against Mattituck and Pierson-Bridgehampton. Counting Wednesday’s contest at Port Jefferson, Greenport has nine games remaining in the regular season.
He snapped a scoreless deadlock exactly at 55 minutes, slotting home a Jaime Choy feed from close range to the right of goalkeeper Travis Sepenoski.
“We couldn’t connect some passes in the beginning but on the one we connected on, we scored,” he said.
The 5-foot-8, 145-pound. Veliz took several hard shots on target on which Sepenoski produced three of his seven saves. Ironically, the forward’s lightest touch of the match was the decisive factor.
“It’s pretty funny,” Veliz said. “Sometimes that’s how football is. Not the hardest shot goes in.”
The miserable conditions did not make for a memorable game as the muddy midfield slowed down play.
“The weather messed it up, but the game was also pretty tough for us,” Veliz said.
“The conditions are tough for everybody.” Dlhopolsky said. “It’s pretty much a mud pit in the middle of the field. Trying to change direction, trying to get anything going was difficult. It was a hard-fought game on both sides. It’s a big rivalry. Everybody always gets really amped up for it.”
Head coach Andrew Sadowski, whose Settlers (1-3-1, 1-3-1) could not find the range, was disappointed.
“There’s lots of room for improvement,” he said. “We’ve got to finish when we have our chances. That’s really what it comes down to.”
As the only Class C schools in the county, the rivals are vying to become Suffolk’s representative in the state tournament. They will meet two more times — at Southold on Saturday, Sept. 30, and at Greenport in the regular season finale on Oct. 17.
Dlhopolsky wasn’t certain whether there will be a Class C final. To reach the playoffs, teams would need to finish at .500 or above, and Class B teams in League IX many times defeat their opponents in lower classifications.
“If both of us were over .500, there’ll be a final,” he said. “If one of us was over 500, that team would get in. If neither one of us was [over .500], we could both petition. That’s why these games are so important. Section IX could decide to just take the C team that had the better record against each other. If we play each other three times, and there’s no draw, somebody’s going to win two or maybe even three. That’s why it was important to get this first one.”