In one of the strangest halves of soccer played in this or any season, the Rye Garnets were responsible for all five goals that went into the nets in 40 minutes of play against Blind Brook High School, yet only eked out a 3-2 victory before a thunderstorm washed away the second half.
Easily the faster, more technically adept team, Rye kept the ball in the Trojans’ end for the first ten minutes of play, with senior Buck Reynolds sending one sailing over the bar five minutes in and another shot bouncing off the post at the 10-minute mark.
Despite their total domination, the Garnets almost allowed the game’s first goal seconds later when a Blind Brook free kick took a deflection off a Rye foot just past James Rimmer’s goal. Rye stormed back and senior midfielder Luis Del Pezo opened accounts at the quarter-hour with a screamer from the top of the box on an assist by Reynolds.
The Garnets manufactured a second goal five minutes later; unfortunately, the bouncing ball went into their own net, due to a lack of communication between the backs and keeper Rimmer. Two minutes later, another defensive lapse almost cost Rye again, pointing up the hole created by the June graduation of All-Everything center half Tim Lonergan and All-Section goalie Mike Linehan.
Still, Rye continued to dominate play on attack. When senior Arber Xhema was taken down in the box, his fellow captain Reynolds calmly slotted the ensuing penalty kick to his right, sending the keeper the other way.
Fresh off a 4-0 pasting at the hands of cross-town rivals Port Chester, Blind Brook regrouped and began to have a little more of the ball. Rye tightened up its defense, leading the Trojans’ coach, Jozef Pomoryn, to continually protest their physical play to the refs, eventually earning a yellow card for dissent.
Meanwhile storm clouds were rolling in, making the field so dark that, by a few minutes after five, the players were effectively playing a night game, with the only illumination coming from the light bulbs on the scoreboard that spelled out “Home” and “Visitors”.
Then, with the score at 2-1 with six minutes left in half, misfortune again befell the Garnets’ D. A throw-in from the left of their goal was headed straight back into the middle, and a Blind Brook midfielder easily scored.
Just when Garnet fortunes were at their darkest, junior defender Stefan Woort-Menker stepped up in a big way. In a melée in front of the Blind Brook goal, he rose for a tough ball and slammed a perfect volley home to put the men in red and black up for the third time with ten seconds left in the half.
As Rye coach Jared Small left the field with his players, he was asked to what he attributed his team’s defensive lapses. Early season jitters? “No, I told them it was a lack of personal responsibility. We’ve been together too long for this to happen.”
With tough challenges like Port Chester and Byram Hills looming ahead in the near future, it will be interesting to see what happens next to this talented team.
Rye next plays rival Harrison at home at 7 p.m.
– Mitch Silver