After a relatively predictable first round in which 22 out of 23 home teams came out victorious, Monday’s quarterfinal round was as wild of a playoff day as I can remember. All three No. 1 seeds that were in action went down — Arlington (AA), Pearl River (A) and Irvington (B) — leaving each bracket in disarray. The fields are now wide open, so expect the unexpected in Wednesday’s semifinals.
I’ll be pulling a Class A doubleheader on Wednesday, starting my day at Byram Hills to see the Bobcats take on Eastchester and then heading up north for Yorktown at Somers. I’ve also recruited some help, as our Yankee guru Chad Jennings will be spending some time on the pitch and covering the Mamaroneck-Port Chester showdown. We’ll both be tweeting from my account, so follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano for live updates from those games and more.
Here are my previews and predictions for each game:
No. 5 John Jay-EF (13-4-1) vs. No. 8 Fox Lane (13-5)
When: 3 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: John Jay-East Fishkill HS
Previous meeting(s): None
Key players: JJEF – Nikolas Angyal, MF; Dan Figarella, D; Nick Liccardi, MF; Ryan Metz, F; Kevin Turi, F. FL – Owen Azrak, MF; Anthony Giron, D; Juan Rivera, MF; Kristian Shkreli, F; Peighton Toro, D.
Outlook: Three of the four teams in the Class AA semis were expected by many to be here, but you can call Fox Lane the party-crashers. The Foxes shocked the section by taking down two-time defending champ and top seed Arlington in the quarters with a 2-1 win, and after flying under the radar during the regular season, must now be viewed as a legitimate title threat. Fox Lane’s strength has been its versatile attack, led by the trio of Owen Azrak, Juan Rivera and Isaac Sanabria. Unfortunately for the Foxes, Sanabria received two yellow cards in the quarters, which is the equivalent of one red card, which means that he must sit out in the semis. He’s a guy who usually draws a lot of attention from opposing defenses, and he’ll leave a huge void. Coach JR Pouncey said that he’ll look to Kristian Shkreli to play in Sanabria’s spot up top. The hottest scorer of the bunch has been Rivera, who scored both goals against Arlington after notching a hat trick in the first round against Saunders. Look for him to be watched closely by the JJEF defense. The Patriots are coming off of a thrilling OT win over Scarsdale and may be considered the favorite now that Arlington has been eliminated. Many will tell you that they have the most talent of any team in the final four, and they come in battle-tested after playing in the toughest league in the section all season. The Foxes will have plenty of momentum in their corner after one of the biggest wins in program history, but without Sanabria and on JJEF’s home turf, it will be an overwhelming task to pull off their second upset in three days.
Prediction: John Jay-EF 3, Fox Lane 2
No. 2 Port Chester (15-2-1) vs. No. 3 Mamaroneck (13-2-3)
When: 3 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: Purchase College
Previous meeting(s): Mamaroneck won 2-1 on Oct. 8 at Port Chester HS
Key players: PC – Steven Carias, MF; Miguel Coyt, F/MF; Steven Hernandez, F; Luis Morales, F/MF; Alan Novoa, D. Mamo – Yeison Banegas, MF; Juan Giraldo, F; Jonhy Maldonado, MF; Thomas Orgielewicz, GK; JD Wilson, D.
Outlook: This is the matchup that most expected to see at this point, featuring the top two teams from Westchester duking it out for a spot in the section title game. We got a preview when they met on Oct. 8, a game in which Mamaroneck prevailed 2-1. The Tigers were able to effectively limit PC’s top player, Steven Hernandez, with center back JD Wilson taking on much of the man-marking responsibility. Wilson has really emerged as a top player for Mamo as a big body who moves well and wins most balls in the air. On the other side, the Tigers were able to get the ball to their top playmakers – Juan Giraldo and Yeison Banegas – and it was Giraldo who shook loose for the first goal in their previous meeting. I was at that game, and what really stood out to me was that Mamaroneck seemed to outwork PC in many aspects of the game. In a playoff setting, you would think that the Rams will pick up the intensity a bit, and they are capable of turning this into a lopsided game quickly if they’re clicking. Luis Morales scored the winner against New Ro in the quarters and he’s really stepped up to take some of the pressure off of Hernandez. But I believe that Mamaroneck is the more well-balanced team, with a strong defense and a hot keeper in Thomas Orgielewicz, who hasn’t allowed a goal yet in this postseason. After getting bumped in the semis last season, I think the Tigers are hungry to get over the hump.
Prediction: Mamaroneck 2, Port Chester 1
No. 4 Byram Hills (13-5) vs. No. 8 Eastchester (12-5-1)
When: 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: Byram Hills HS
Previous meeting(s): Byram swept this season; a 2-1 win at home on Oct. 6 and a 1-0 win at Eastchester on Oct. 15
Key players: BH – Bennett Kramer, F; Yianni Lambos, D; Payton Levine, D/MF; Cole Tannor, MF; Ben Weinstein, F. East – Joseph Blasetti, GK; Austin Capasso, MF; Leandro Dos Santos, F; Stephan Gueye, D/MF; John Wiley, D.
Outlook: Byram comes in as a decisive favorite after sweeping Eastchester during the regular season, but it’s often said that beating a team three times in one year is extremely difficult to do. The Eagles sent shockwaves through the section by upsetting previously unbeaten Pearl River in the quarters, and word is that goalkeeper Joseph Blasetti played out of his mind. He finished with 14 saves, and few things are more dangerous at this time of year than a keeper who is in a groove. It certainly appears that Eastchester is peaking at the right time, but it’s been a very long time since it has won on Byram’s field. The Bobcats started slow against Pelham in the quarters, but rallied for a memorable OT win. That clinched their ninth straight trip to the semis and it’s been a month since they lost a game. Byram very rarely loses at home, and with all of the upsets on Monday, now looks like the team to beat in the class.
Prediction: Byram Hills 1, Eastchester 0
No. 7 Somers (12-4-2) vs. No. 11 Yorktown (10-8-1)
When: 6 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: Somers HS
Previous meeting(s): Tied 1-1 at Yorktown on Sept. 3; Somers won 1-0 at home on Sept. 22
Key players: Som – Will Bennett, MF; Scott Colombo, F; Evan Kieltyka, D; Kenny Kurtz, GK; Zach Litchman, MF. York – Jacob Braham, GK; Mohamed Hamza, F/MF; David Metz, D; Roy Reynolds, MF; Marcello Spiniello, F/MF.
Outlook: Both Class A semis feature league rivals going head-to-head, so there won’t be many surprises for either team. Somers went 1-0-1 against Yorktown this season, but it’s been over a month since they last played, and the Huskers have made some changes since then. One move was to place Mohamed Hamza up top, and he responded by earning #lohudsoccer Player of the Week honors last week. Yorktown was sitting a few games under .500 not too long ago, but it has caught fire in the past few weeks. It’s offense has looked unstoppable recently, as they Huskers have yet to score fewer than three goals in three playoff games. The Tuskers also have had a strong offensive attack at times this season, but they only managed two shots in their upset win against Lakeland. That’s a difficult way to win, and it would be nearly impossible to move on again if they can’t generate more opportunities against Yorktown. Logic says that Somers has been more consistent and has a history of success against the Huskers, but everything in my gut tells me that Yorktown has turned the corner and will continue its Cinderella run.
Prediction: Yorktown 2, Somers 1
No. 4 Rye Neck (11-5-2) vs. No. 8 Valhalla (10-5-3)
When: 3 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: Rye Neck HS
Previous meeting(s): Tied 1-1 at Valhalla on Sept. 12
Key players: RN – Marco Andreoli, MF; Rich Barrios, GK; Luis Galeano, F; Pierre Klur, MF; Takuno Nishimura, MF. Val – Kaio DaSilva, D/F; Sam Gannon, D; Michael Perna, GK; Ricky Thomas, F; Yuto Tobin, MF.
Outlook: There were quite a few surprises during the quarterfinals on #UpsetMonday, but I don’t think Valhalla’s win over No. 1 Irvington was as shocking as some of the other upsets. Despite a midseason losing streak, the Vikings have been one of the better teams in the class all year, and they’ve upset the No. 1 team in the state twice now. They won’t be intimidated by any stage. It will be interesting to see how they defend Rye Neck striker Luis Galeano, who is the key cog in the Panthers’ offense. Will they man-mark him, and if so, will it be star center back Kaio DaSilva who does so? Valhalla played DaSilva up top for another 10 minutes in the first half against Irvington, but once they got the lead, they let DaSilva stay in the back and do his thing. The Vikings generated goals without him, with Ricky Thomas and Steven Kopicki showing that they can also be threats to score. Rye Neck hasn’t been quite as versatile, and with the momentum that it has been carrying for the past few weeks, it would be hard to pick against Valhalla at this point.
Prediction: Valhalla 2, Rye Neck 1
No. 3 Bronxville (13-3-2) vs. No. 7 Edgemont (12-5-1)
When: 3 p.m. on Wednesday
Where: Bronxville HS
Previous meeting(s): Edgemont won 3-0 at home on Sept. 4; Bronxville won 2-1 at home on Sept. 30
Key players: Bx – Sam Aherne, F; James Burnell, F/MF; Michael Crawford, MF/D; Matt McCloskey, MF; Joe Pepe, GK. Edge – Simeon Balev, F/MF; Alexander Goldman, MF; Jason Miller, F; Josh Newman, GK; Drew Simon, MF.
Outlook: After getting off to a slow start this season, Bronxville has been played well for about a month and a half. One of its early losses was a lopsided 3-0 loss to Edgemont, but the Broncos got one back on the Panthers when they met again later in the season. Edgemont, on the other hand, started red-hot, but has cooled off a bit in recent weeks. Still, I don’t think anyone would disagree that these are two of the top three or four teams in the class, and as league opponents, I’m expecting this one to be a battle. More so than perhaps any other game, I think the location of this game will be very important. Bronxville loves to play on its big turf field, while Edgemont is a grass team that has always had trouble winning at Bronxville. Panthers goalkeeper Josh Newman may be the best in the class and is capable of standing on his head, but I think the Broncos will create plenty of opportunities on its home field. Very tough call because Edgemont also has a handful of weapons going forward, but my hunch tells me that Bronxville will come out on top. The Broncos always show up at this time of year.
Prediction: Bronxville 2, Edgemont 1
Photo by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News