BY SHAWN LAYTON
BY SHAWN LAYTON
METUCHEN— Worried that his team would do battle with the Edison Eagles on Thursday with a lack of intensity, St. Joseph’s High School boys soccer coach Michael O’Boyle watched his team outshoot the opponent, 20-10, but fail to net a goal in a 0-0 tie.
"I was concerned that the East Brunswick game on Tuesday would take an emotional toll that would carry over to the Edison game, and I was right. The team was flat, and we only played up to our full potential for the final 10-minute stretch," O’Boyle said. "We didn’t play with the same diligence and patience that we are capable of."
O’Boyle’s Falcons also did battle without senior and leading scorer Farris Fakhoury, or senior midfielder Michael Cladek. Cladek has been battling a groin injury this season, and, while sidelined, the team has sorely missed his decision-making skills.
"Michael is a great player, and we missed his size in the middle on Thursday," O’Boyle said. "Farris is the leader or our offensive attack and he is the field general out there. He is one of the more skillful players in the county, and we are hoping he can return to the lineup in another 10 days."
Cladek’s play earlier in the week nearly gave the Falcons an upset win over the unbeaten East Brunswick Bears. In the rematch between the two teams, the Bears netted the only goal of the contest in the second half with seven minutes to play en route to a 1-0 victory. Cladek helped keep the Falcons close by keeping tabs on East Brunswick standout Zach Simi. Although Simi showed flashes of his usual brilliance, Cladek and the Falcon defense held the star forward scoreless. In their first meeting with the Bears, the Falcons fell, 4-0.
Another reason the Falcons kept the score close on Tuesday and held the Edison Eagles scoreless on Thursday was the play of senior goalkeeper Dan Roth.
"Danny has the surest hands in the county," O’Boyle said. "He is the best keeper to come through St. Joseph’s since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here since 1992. He was excellent again today, but we need to have more venom up front and score some goals to help him out."
In addition to his great hands, Roth possesses an enormous punt that often serves as the catalyst for the offensive attack. As a result, Roth has even recorded an assist this season.
With Cladek and Fakhoury remaining out of the lineup, the Falcons will ask senior midfielder Greg Martinez to lead the team. Already one of the team’s leading scorers with six goals, Martinez also spearheads the team’s defense.
"The team lacks a pure goal scorer this year," O’Boyle said. "This is why one of our leading goal scorers is a defensive midfielder. Greg is an outstanding player, and has recorded one of this season’s most spectacular goals."
St. Joseph’s Falcons are hoping to find the net again, as they square off against Piscataway and North Brunswick this week. How the Falcons fare this week will also determine the team’s seeding in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. The seeding meeting will take place tonight.
"Everyone is expecting East Brunswick to get the top seed and Colonia will be seeded second, but how we do against Piscataway can make the difference between a third seed or a fourth seed," O’Boyle said.
After the tough loss against East Brunswick, O’Boyle told his men to believe in themselves and to be ready.
"They will be afraid to play us again," O’Boyle said. "You will meet them again if you want to meet them again. Just be ready."
Notes… While St. Joseph’s should be among the top seeds in the GMCT, the Metuchen Bulldogs are also expecting to be recognized after posting a 9-4 mark in the competitive Blue Division.
Though not ranked in the top 10 when the week began, Metuchen has certainly proven it can play with the conference’s elite teams, and could be tough in the postseason.
Both St. Joseph’s and Metuchen will also be looking forward to the upcoming state tournament, which is set to get under way on Nov. 1. The cutoff for that tournament — when teams must have a .500 record or better — is Friday.
On the girls’ side of play, the Edison girls will be anxious to see where they are seeded in the GMCT. The Eagles are 9-2-2, despite playing a difficult Red Division schedule that includes the likes of Old Bridge and East Brunswick, the likely top two seeds in the tournament. The Eagles have staked their claim to the third seed after going 1-0-1 against East Brunswick and tying Old Bridge. Though some will argue that White Division champion Monroe Falcons should get the third seed, the top three teams in the Red Division are believed to be a cut above the rest of the conference.
Metuchen’s girls will also be hoping for a good seed, after playing to a 6-6-1 mark despite a tough Blue Division schedule. Both teams will also be looking forward to the state tournament.