Senior Kevin Abbondanza scores his second goal on a PK.
Rye High Boys’ Soccer
Beating Goshen 2-1 Sends Rye to State Final Four
By Mitch Silver
A week after traveling to Lakeland High School to play (and defeat) Somers for their first Section 1 boys’ soccer title in 40 years—and 72 hours after traveling to Oneonta to play (and defeat, by a score of 4-3) Section 4’s Union-Endicott in Regional semifinal play—the Garnets were back closer to home Saturday night for the Regional final.
On the other side of the Pace University field in Valhalla was Goshen High School of Section 9, the State’s fourth-ranked team in Class A. The Gladiators came in with a 12-game unbeaten streak. Fortunately for the Garnets, they were the third-ranked team. But that ranking was earned in part by Rye’s prolific striker, Jake Creus. He broke his wrist in the 80th minute of the U-E game, so Head Coach Jared Small’s team was down 25 goals to start the game.
“We basically took the approach of replacing Jake by committee,” Coach Small said, “with senior co-captain Pepijn van Beurden as chairman of that committee on Saturday evening.”
Exactly one minute in they were down even more when Rye senior and ex-Academy player Michael Traynor, hero of the semifinal win with a goal off a contested header in overtime, had to be helped off the field. “Michael took some hard contact in the first minute and we needed to be sure he was OK,” Small said. “Our training staff evaluated him and Michael was ready to return a few minutes later.” Junior forward Alex Vollbrecht held down the fort while Traynor was out.
Two minutes after Traynor returned, Rye was peppering Goshen’s keeper Ryan Primus with driven shots when van Beurden flicked the ball far post to winger Kevin Abbondanza. The tap-in gave the Garnets the early lead. Afterwards, Coach Small said, “The last game was a tough one and we basically escaped at the end. We didn’t get the start we wanted in Oneonta. When we came out for this one, our mentality was phenomenal.” Traynor added, “An early goal obviously helps boost the energy and gives us a shot of confidence.”
Traynor got another kind of shot, this one to the body, two minutes before halftime when he was heavily fouled in the penalty box. He would only return a dozen minutes into the second half. But when Abbondanza stepped up to the spot, he made it 2-0 by sending the keeper left while burying the ball in the right corner.
Rye continued to control play for most of the second half. But when Ethan Rodriguez hustled to a loose ball and scored with 10:30 to play, the Gladiators had new life.
Coach Small wasn’t worried. “Those final minutes weren’t as frantic as they may have seemed. Their goal was less a reflection of any shift in the match than simply a strong effort from a couple of their guys. I loved the way we played the final 10. We managed the match nicely, had a couple of potential scoring opportunities, and largely continued to do what we had done all night.”
The last 30 seconds were a different story. Senior defender Malcolm McQueeney had just made a couple of goal-saving blocks when their central midfielder slammed a shot at Rye’s goal one last time. Senior netminder and co-captain Kai Haesslein saw it coming.
“It was a pretty dangerous ball; a lot of Goshen players were crowding around the top of the 18-yard box. Since it hung in the air for so long, it allowed their striker to get pretty close. I wasn’t sure if I could cleanly catch it. From my experience, not all refs call a foul on the striker if they challenge a keeper for the ball in the air. Those type of collisions frequently cause you to lose possession and usually result in a goal. But in the end, I made the split-second decision to go for the catch rather than try to clear it.”
That catch was one of only four saves Haesslein would make in the game (at the other end, Primus was forced to make 12).
Afterwards, Coach Small was asked about having to play without two of his high scorers, Creus and Traynor. He said, “We have great depth on this team. Depth means that every training session takes on added purpose and every squad selection requires extra calculation by the coaching staff. The high school soccer schedule is severely compressed—we’ve played 22 matches in 70 days—and depth has been paramount to our ability to thrive over the course of a physically taxing season.
“Tonight, we got a tremendous effort from Pep. His brother, Jonas, subbed in every 8-10 minutes. Nate Collins stepped in there. We filled in by committee. And, of course, our regulars played a whale of a game.”
Michael Traynor put it more succinctly. “Everyone on this team is willing to put their body on the line.” They’ll get their next chance to do that 11:15 a.m. Saturday when they meet Jericho, the Long Island champion, at Middletown High School. Oh, and they’ll take the field sitting on top of New York State’s Class A rankings.