BY TIM MORRIS
middletown — Injuries are a part of every team’s season.
It has been no exception for the Brookdale Community College men’s soccer team, which at the moment, is down three starters.
However, the good news for Wayne Palmer’s Jersey Blues is that this year the team has the talent to overcome its injuries.
“We hit a patch where every time we stepped on the field, we were getting one or two players injured,” Palmer remarked. “This year we’re blessed with numbers, I’m happy to say. It’s been a year we’ve gone to sidelines for our fourth or fifth player [at a position]. It’s depth we didn’t have last year, and it’s a good thing.”
Outside halfback Robert Miller (Raritan), defender Rob Brangenberg (Middletown South) and forward Edson Gonzalez are all the starters who have been on the sidelines with foot injuries. And another starter, forward Jim Blackburn, has spent his share of time-out of action as well.
Thanks to the deep roster, the Jersey Blues have remained highly competitive, as their 7-2-2 mark through the first 11 games shows, and they are looking forward to the postseason.
On Wednesday, in Lincroft, the Blues were scheduled to host Sussex County in the final, and biggest game of the regular season. Sussex entered the game unbeaten (11-0-1) and ranked No. 3 in the country. Brookdale, meanwhile, is playing for a high seed for the Region XIX tournament that begins on Saturday on the home field of the highest seed. A Jersey Blue win could get Brookdale a No. 2 seed and home field up to the final, Oct. 30, at Middlesex County Park in Edison.
Sussex was playing for more than a perfect regular season. The last team to beat Sussex in the regular season was Brookdale last fall.
“That’s ammunition for them,” noted Palmer.
For Brookdale, who just two years ago won the Region title and advanced to the Division III national final, yesterday’s game would let them know how they stack up against a nationally ranked club.
“It’s a big game,” said Palmer. “It’s a good measuring stick as to where we are. This team sets goals early in the season. They want more than the first round of the playoffs.”
Last Wednesday, the Blues tested themselves against a Division I team, Delaware Tech Junior College in Stanton, Del. The step up in competition hardly slowed the Blues, who scored a 4-0 out-of-conference victory that provided the team with added confidence.
Matawan grad Rich Frey, Blackburn (England), C.J. Bordino (Neptune) and Esteban Mozo (Long Branch) each scored a goal in the first 20 minutes of the second half to lead Brookdale. Bordino also had two assists. Goalie Robert Feeney (Neptune) collected his fourth shutout of the year on four saves.
Palmer believes that when all is said and done, his Jersey Blues are contenders for the Region crown. They are expected to have everyone back by this weekend and when healthy, they have all the ingredients of a Region champion.
“We’re balanced,” said Palmer. “We have a good goalie and defense, our midfielders have been doing the job and our forwards can score.”
Brookdale has something else going for it as well, as it looks to repeat 2002. Since midseason, all that has concerned the Blues is the team. Who scores the winning goal doesn’t matter. The focus is everyone doing his job. A great defensive play or quick transitional pass are just as important as scoring a goal.
After tying Herkimer, N.Y., the No. 1-ranked team in the country, early in the season in New York, Palmer said his team was lulled into a false sense of security. Thinking they only had to show up, they had an inflated sense of how good they were, and strayed away from doing the little things and working hard. The result was a 1-2-2 stretch.
“The team lost some focus,” Palmer noted.
The Blues took a long look at themselves and realized they weren’t going anywhere the way they were playing.
“We have decided this year we’re going to reflect the team approach,” Palmer said. “It doesn’t matter who scores the goal.”