A month ago, Rye Neck was little more than a .500 soccer team, struggling to deal with injuries and a tough schedule.
By Mitch Silver
A month ago, Rye Neck was little more than a .500 soccer team, struggling to deal with injuries and a tough schedule. The nadir was probably a 4-0 pasting handed them by Bronxville, the very same Bronxville squad they faced in the rain at Arlington High School November 1 for the Class B Section championship.
But first they had to get there. Ranked behind the No. 3 Broncos based on that 4-0 head-to-head result, the Panthers had to host fifth-seeded, senior-laden Briarcliff. In the first half, Rye Neck sophomore and leading scorer Luis Galeano just missed with a header off a free kick, forced a tough save from an acute angle ten minutes later and, finally, caromed one off the upper woodwork with two minutes till halftime.
The second half looked to be more of the same until Briarcliff’s talented Caleb Asamoah finally converted on the second of two corner kicks with 26:05 left. Meanwhile, Rye Neck’s direct style — with the defenders clearing everything as far up-field as possible in the hopes Galeano would get his foot on the ball — seemed doomed to fail.
But it didn’t. With 11 minutes to go, the striker charged up the left wing, reached the end line, and drove a left-footed ball to the near post. Pierre Klur arrived just in time to stuff the ball past the Bears’ surprised keeper.
Then, 80 seconds later, Galeano scored one of his most creative goals of the year. Covered in the box by two defenders, he faked a right-footed shot and whirled 270° to his right to score with his left foot into the far corner. The 2-1 win defied probability, sending the Panthers into the semis against a smoking-hot Valhalla squad.
How hot? Valhalla defeated Spackenkill, then New York State’s top-ranked Class B team, two weeks ago. That gave Irvington the top slot, until the Vikings beat them in their first playoff game. So they faced Rye Neck October 29, with two State #1 scalps hanging from their belts. The good news for the Panthers? Oft-bruised Co-Captains Corey Soriano and Takuno Nishimura would both be back on the field in game shape at the same time.
The contest was everything it was cracked up to be, a scoreless affair going into overtime. It stayed that way thanks to two great saves: an acrobatic goalie stop on the Panthers’ Donovan Dunning and then a breathtaking clearance off the opposite goal line by Rye Neck defender Tim Kelly.
Penalty kicks would decide it. I asked Coach Frank Gizzo how he and co-coach Bryan Iacovelli determined the order of kickers. “We didn’t,” he answered. “We left it up to the players. That’s what we’ve always done and we weren’t about to change.”
Another thing that wasn’t about to change was the deadlock. With Valhalla going first, the PKs were all square after five shots each. Peter Gallagher went sixth and Fraser Shaw seventh. Both scored. Then when Panther keeper Rich Barrios stopped the eighth kick, Dunning had a chance to win it all. He hit a great shot and Valhalla’s goalie made a great save. Barrios, though, saved again and, this time, Noah Klur drove the winner home.
The final couldn’t possibly live up to that sort of drama, could it? Absolutely. Rye Neck, with only three seniors, was the underdog again; Bronxville would play in their seventh final in the last nine years. But the Panthers were not to be denied…not by Bronxville and not by the wet, chilly conditions.
The score was already 1-1 with 20 minutes left in the first half when Luis Galeano made a strong left-to-right run and powered the ball home, sending the boys from Hornidge Road into the locker room up 2-1.
The lead didn’t last. Bronxville captain Mike Crawford scored from the left side with ten minutes gone. Then Barrios and stopper Will Galeano led a defense that made sure it stayed that way until brother Luis, with two defenders on him and the clock running down, fired one into the left side of the net for the win and the Section crown.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. And in the rain.