CHAPPAQUA —Keio had its way with Horace Greeley when the league rivals met earlier this season, but coach David Martinez knew it wasn’t going to be as easy to handle the Quakers on the road.
“When they play home, they’re used to the field,” Martinez said. “The turf is what we’re used to, and that hurts any team. These guys practice here every day.”
While the Unicorns play on a wide turf field on the Manhattanville campus, Greeley uses a smaller grass field. It made for a much more competitive game, but Kensuke Hirai (pictured above) buried a header in the 75th minute to ensure that Keio would complete the season sweep with a 3-2 win.
“When he scored, he was low. He had to dive because (the pass) was for a little guy,” Martinez said. “That wasn’t for him, that’s for sure. He just got lucky to be there.”
The explosive Unicorns (8-5) struck quickly when Takahiro Asai scored in the seventh minute, but the Quakers responded less than two minutes later when Liam Bradley lofted a shot over the top of the Keio goalkeeper.
There was only one referee working the game, as opposed to the usual two. The Keio defense seemed to think that Bradley was offsides on a what appeared to be a close call, but the goal was allowed.
“We knew it was coming,” Martinez said. “One referee makes a big difference. He can’t call offsides, we can’t trap, and we had to be really careful.”
After being outshot by the Unicorns in the first half, Greeley (6-5-3) came out for the second half playing at a more rapid pace. It resulted in several quality chances, including Bradley’s second goal of the game to briefly put the Quakers ahead in the 44th minute.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as Keio would equalize less than a minute later when Asai found Ryuichiro Sekido.
“When they (went ahead) in the second half, you could see that nobody went crazy,” Martinez said. “We didn’t get nervous. You could see on the bench, nobody got up. It was just quiet, because we know what we’re doing. We have a lot of faith in the guys.”
The top scorer for the Unicorns has been Shusuke Sato (pictured above), who crossed the ball into the box for the assist on Hirai’s game-winner. The Quakers did a good job of limiting his touches, but Keio showed that it has quite a few weapons.
“We have (Sato), we have (Shunya Izumi), we have (Asai), we have (Hirai) – everybody is different,” Martinez said. “I move a lot of people around, and that’s why so many coaches look for Sato to be up there, and then he’s not there. They get all confused. All of my players need to be able to play defense, offense, in the midfield, outside, inside – everything, because we move a lot.”
The win got the Unicorns off to a good start in a week that Martinez said will tell them “what kind of team we have.” They’ll host Port Chester on Friday before traveling to Arlington on Saturday to play the defending Class AA state champs.
Keio nearly knocked off the No. 1 team in Class A on Saturday when it took a lead into the final 15 minutes against undefeated Byram Hills, and while the Unicorns will likely start the A playoffs on the road, they’ve proven that they will be a dangerous opponent.
“All I know is that we’re going to work really hard,” Martinez said. “We respect all of the teams. Look at Byram, look at Lakeland; they’re doing a great job. There are some big teams out there. We’ll try to do our best, and hopefully it goes our way. I wish we could play the final against Byram Hills.”
Best of the rest: Spring Valley’s Rooben Michel had a hat trick, including the game-winner in the 71st minute of a 4-3 win over Riverside at Redmond Field. … Barrett Gumina scored the game-winner to help Briarcliff clinch its second consecutive League 3-B title in a 1-0 win at Fox Lane. … Alex Cvecich scored the game-winner on an assist from Ian Mook with one minute remaining in Hackley’s 1-0 win at Collegiate. … Cameron Shaw had a goal and two assists in Rye Neck’s 5-0 win over visiting Nanuet. … Sebastian Lopez had a hat trick in Carmel’s 5-4 loss at John Jay-EF. … Mohammed Hamza and Jason Toporoff each scored in Yorktown’s 2-0 win over visiting John Jay. … Mike Bernardi made 10 saves in Mahopac’s 1-0 win over visiting Somers. … Putnam Valley’s Anders Spittal and Peekskill’s Oswald Annang each scored in a 1-1 tie. … Matt Streichler and Joe DiBerardino each scored twice in Blind Brook’s 6-0 win over visiting Rye. … MiMoon Al Zandani had two goals and an assist in Tuckahoe’s 5-2 win over Roosevelt at Redmond Field. … Kevin Collado and Paul Leake each scored in Rye Country Day’s 2-0 win at Hopkins (CT). … Johnny Denis had two assists in Lakeland’s 2-1 win over visiting Lourdes. … Harrison beat Croton-Harmon 2-1 in OT. … North Salem beat Brewster 3-0. … Hen Hud beat Panas 3-2. … Arlington beat Ketcham 4-1.
Big thanks to proud Greeley parent Peter Ginsberg for the photos!