THIELLS — North Rockland was turning up the heat and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Nyack goal in the waning minutes of Monday’s match, but every hopeful run was stymied by Alex Wilson.
“With one or two minutes left, it’s a lot of pressure on me,” the senior goalkeeper said. “I had to really just step my game up, and focus on the ball and whatever they were bringing. They were bringing a lot. They had a lot of guys coming in, and they had a lot of opportunities at the end. It was really hectic, but our defense played very well, and I was fortunately able to grab some of the balls out of the air.”
Wilson and the Indians held on for dear life in the 1-0 win, completing a season sweep of a Red Raiders team that reached the Class AA section final last year.
After hanging three goals on North Rockland in its season-opener, Nyack (4-1) proved that it could also succeed in a low-scoring defensive battle.
“They were putting it down the wings a lot more and trying to get some crosses in,” said Wilson, who finished with eight saves. “In the first game, they were trying to put it down the middle and get these through balls. But our defense held, and we got some heads on it. They also have a lot of tall guys and I just tried to anticipate where the ball was going to go.”
The Red Raiders (2-3) were able to bottle up the Indians’ attack in the first half, but finding consistent offense has been an issue on a team that features eight new starters.
“We’re still moving pieces around,” North Rockland coach Chris Dwyer said. “I think we’re better in the back – we’ve been much better defensively – but offensively, we’re still looking to find some people that link up better. We need some people that can make some things happen.”
Nyack had doubled North Rockland’s shot total in the first half, but failed to put many quality shots on frame. That changed in the 58th minute, when junior Tyler Yassky buried a free kick from just over 20 yards out for a 1-0 lead.
“There were a lot of balls that were bouncing around in the box, and we’ve had a tough time finishing. It was good to end it on a free kick, because we’ve been working on those in practice,” Yassky said. “I saw the way the goalie set up the wall, he left the near post open.”
From there, the Indians relied on Wilson and their defense to hold the one-goal lead, and the result was their third straight win since a disappointing overtime loss to Spring Valley last Tuesday.
“Without a doubt, when we bang it around, I don’t think anyone can beat us in the county,” Yassky said.
• This really was a pretty evenly played game for the most part, but the one advantage that Nyack seems to have is a few more offensive weapons. Both teams were pretty organized in the back, but forward Kayode Tyler was obviously on the minds of the North Rockland defense, and that opens things up for skilled midfielders like Yassky and Mike Sullivan to make their runs. They occasionally have issues with putting their shots on frame, but Yassky’s was true when they really needed it in the second half. “Our backs come up well, and we definitely drop back for them when they attack,” Yassky said. “Obviously, Sully is doing well, and he’s a defensive player, as well. We’ve got guys who can move out of the back from defense to offense, so we’re versatile.”
• North Rockland is a well-coached team that always seems to be strong in the back, but Dwyer acknowledged that they’re still trying to find some true goal-scorers. “We’re still looking for somebody to step up up top,” he said. “Goals are very few and far between. We did a better job possessing – our first game was an absolute debacle in terms of possessing. We started to link up and find corners. That’s how we’re going to have to score goals. As long as we’re getting to those spots right now, it’s a positive. We just need somebody to finish. It’s very hard to find someone right now.”
• I was very impressed with Wilson today, who played much better in goal than what I saw last week in the Spring Valley game. The eight saves were nice, but it was it was his ability to anticipate plays by snatching balls out of the air or diving on loose balls in the box that stood out. “In the offseason, me and my coach have gone over punching and catching and just everything, down to the basics,” Wilson said. “I always had trouble getting up in the air and I would get thrown around a little bit, but I got a little bigger over the offseason and worked on my catching.”
• Cards started to fly around in the second half of a pretty physical game, and the North Rockland coaching staff was upset with some of the inconsistencies. Admittedly, I notice in many games that I cover that what was called a foul earlier in the game may be a card later, so I can understand some of the frustration. But at the same time, as the refs see the fouls increasing, I can understand wanting to send a message. “To be honest with you, the refs are the refs. That’s the way they are every single game, it’s just how frequently they hand out cards. I don’t know if they understand how much they accumulate,” Dwyer said. “Call a foul, but they give these cards out, and it’s so bad just for the kids in general moving forward, because now they’re handicapped for the rest of the year for something that isn’t even intentional.”
• Last week’s loss to Spring Valley was hard to swallow at the time, but Nyack has played well since then, and some players seem to feel that it was needed to open some eyes. “I think that was a big wakeup call, that we’re not the only ones in this (county) who are good,” Wilson said. “We were getting a little hyped up over all of the news and everything, (but now) we’re just focused on soccer, and that’s what it’s all about.”
GAME OF THE DAY: Edgemont 3, Eastchester 2, OT
Edgemont’s Nicholas Kim scored in the second overtime to give the Panthers a 3-2 win over visiting Eastchester after suffering a meltdown at the end of regulation to let the Eagles make it interesting.
Edgemont controlled its destiny for 70 minutes Monday. The team dominated ball possession and outshot the Eagles 26-10.
With seven minutes left in regulation and a 2-0 lead, the Panthers allowed Yemurayi Chiwota to instill hope in the Eagles with a goal.
Then with less than a minute remaining, Eastchester goalie Joesph Blasetti blasted the ball from 50 yards out into the net, leaving the Panthers in awe over what had happened.
“We were lucky that that (Blasetti goal) happened with so little time left in the game because if there was more time, we could have lost the game in regulation,” Edgemont coach Mike Cozzi said about the comeback.
The Panthers’ veteran leadership, including captain Steve Teinado, rallied the team before overtime with an emotional speech to keep its hopes high.
In the second overtime, Edgemont’s Tom Young made a brilliant cross from the left side of the field to Kim coming down the right side. Kim made a move toward the middle and placed a shot with his non-dominant foot past Blasetti for the win.
The win served as a learning experience for the Panthers.
“For us coaches, we learned that we must play for the entire 80 minutes,” Cozzi said of the near loss.
Here are the rest of the scores that we received:
Yonkers 5, Ardsley 1
Tappan Zee 2, Ramapo 0
Brewster 3, Beacon 2
Rye Neck 1, Hamilton 1, 2 OT
Woodlands 5, Scarsdale B 3
Hastings 2, Sleepy Hollow 1
Bronxville 2, Pelham 1
Solomon Schechter 2, Tuckahoe 1
Mamaroneck 5, Mount Vernon 1
Washingtonville 4, Clarkstown South 1
Westlake 4, Ossining 1
Saunders 4, YMA 3
Suffern 1, Albertus Magnus 0
Spring Valley 3, Pearl River 1
New Rochelle 1, Scarsdale 0, OT
Irvington 3, Dobbs Ferry 1
Fox Lane 3, Valhalla 2
John Jay-EF 1, Mahopac 0
Photos by Seth Harrison/The Journal News