By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
MAYS LANDING — The Oakcrest boys soccer team scored in the first minute on Thursday afternoon against visiting Pleasantville. The undermanned Greyhounds then held the Falcons off the scoreboard for the next 99 minutes.
Pleasantville — which had only 12 healthy players available before the game even started — finished the game with only nine players on the field, yet somehow managed to forge a 1-1 tie in a key early season Cape-Atlantic League National Conference matchup.
“We had nine guys at the end and only one sub all game. Oakcrest is a helluva team, I love their coach, we go at it all the time. We know how it is against them and we love playing them. People should come out for the rematch (at Pleasantville, Oct. 3), that’s going to be a great game,” said Pleasantville coach Marcus Barksdale.
Oakcrest came out of the gates like gangbusters, as Jack O’Brien took the ball coast-to-coast on a counterattack, beat a defender in the box and drilled a shot to the far right past Pleasantville keeper Giovanni Saavedra. Saavedra, however, pitched a shutout the rest of the way, making several key saves, including a couple in overtime, to help the Greyhounds get a result.
“Our goalie, this is his first time playing varsity. It’s his first time playing high school soccer. He hasn’t played since middle school, and he’s doing a great job,” Barksdale said. “This team knows how good it is and they play with heart.”
“I just felt like my defense had things under control and if I would just keep my cool we’d be OK,” Saavedra said. “It’s very nice to have (sweeper Samson St. Vilus) in front of me as my main defender. I love him. My job would be way more complicated without him there. Without him, this game would have been a lot different.”
Pleasantville (1-1-1, 1-1-1 Cape-Atlantic League National) got the equalizer halfway through the first half, as the Greyhounds were awarded a penalty kick after an Oakcrest defender was whistled for a hand ball inside the box.
Striker Anthony Perdomo took the PK and buried into the bottom right corner to tie the game, 1-1.
“They scored real early and we were down 1-0 right from the beginning, but we got a little lucky and their defender had a hand ball inside the box. I took the PK and it went in,” Perdomo said. “We played very well at the end. I feel like we should have gotten the win, but that’s OK.”
But Saavedra’s counterpart, Falcons keeper Joey Snodgrass, was up to the task as well. He, too, had some outstanding saves, including a brilliant stop against Perdomo late in the overtime. Perdomo was one vs. one with Snodgrass on a breakaway and Snodgrass came off his line and made a sliding foot save to deny what would have been the game winner.
“That was great. That was the highlight of the overtime, I thought, him making that save,” said Oakcrest coach Scott Miele. “I was blown away — not because he hasn’t made saves like that, but that’s a high stakes situation. You like to see kids face that kind of adversity and be able to answer in that situation. That was really promising for us.”
As well as the Falcons played defensively, offensively there was nothing but frustration as Oakcrest (2-0-2, 1-0-1 CAL National) couldn’t seem to get any flow going after the first few minutes and the early goal.
“Frustration would be the word for us. I thought the way we ended last year, winning eight out of nine, we played a much cleaner game where we just simplified things. Now, we don’t. Every restart is something different I’ve never seen, every corner kick seems to be something I’ve never seen — we have to start over. We have to get back to scratch and just try to get the foundation set before we start to try to build the house up,” Miele said. “Whenever you score in the first minute, you’re always looking right away for that second goal, because then you can kind of exhale a little bit and keep guys a little more fresh (by using subs).”
Miele, in his second year after taking over for longtime Falcons coach Joe Seaman, said he knew what kind of game to expect from the Greyhounds.
“We’re always talking about attacking out wide. We struggled against this team twice last year, so I know they are very comfortable against us. We kind of got away from that game plan because I think our kids thought they weren’t that good and we were going to blow them out, but they are a tough group,” he said. “They are very resilient over there at Pleasantville, and (coach Barksdale) always has a great game plan, and his kids execute it. They are disciplined. You know exactly what’s going to happen — you know (St. Vilus) is going to come up and take direct kicks, you know (center midfielder Matt Monroy) is going to try to get the ball and look for (Perdomo). That’s what we saw when we scouted them, but I give their kids a ton of credit. They just stick to the game plan. Nobody went away from the plan. For our kids, we just have to be a little more consistent in that style of play.”
Pleasantville was anchored by a tremendous defensive effort from captain and sweeper St. Vilus.
“Samson St. Vilus is a heck of a player. He should be all-state, hands down,” Barksdale said. “I don’t care what our record is at the end of the year, there is nobody who plays as hard on defense and he doesn’t get any credit for it. Nobody.”
“We always work hard together,” said St. Vilus, a senior and native of Haiti. “I just do what I have to do. This shows that we are motivated and we can play together as a team.”
While it wasn’t a win, getting a result on the road against an Oakcrest team that is one of the top teams in the division is a big boost for the Greyhounds.
“We take a lot out of this game,” Monroy said. “I feel like we did pretty good even though we went down early. We’ve been working all summer long, putting in the work, and it showed on the field today. It was a very difficult team to face, they are very fast and they knew how to play as a team, but we dealt with them pretty good.”
What’s next: Oakcrest travels to Cedar Creek on Monday at 4 p.m. Pleasantville travels to Atlantic Christian on Monday at 3:45 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays