October 7, 2016
By Cory K. Doviak
NJS.com Editorial Director
Dean Anzalone scored the last Ridgewood goal from the penalty spot late in the Maroons 3-0 win over Emerson in the play-in round of the Bergen County Tournament.
EMERSON – It is any tournament selection committee’s angst. On one hand there is the Group 1 team with the sparkling record and on the other is the Group 4 team that has taken some losses, but done so against a schedule filled with heavyweights. There really is no other way to decide the issue other than matching them against each other in a play-in scenario with the winner earning the ticket to the main draw.
Emerson, said Group 1 school which came in without a loss was given the advantage of the home game against Ridgewood, the Group 4 from the Big North which was an even .500 on the season coming into the opening round match of the Bergen County Boys Soccer Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
And it was a good match there for a while. Not long after George Edwards gave Ridgewood a lead in the 26th minute, Emerson found its footing and was buzzing around with possession for much of the rest of the first half and early in the second. But the difference between chasing the game and being in it until its conclusion and facing what became an insurmountable deficit was a small as a couple of inches between a goalie’s reach and the near post.
Kyle Mack scored from a tight angle after a run up the right and that changed the momentum to Ridgewood’s favor for good as the Maroons advanced to the Round of 16 with a 3-0 win on the road.
“The last 10 minutes of the first half we kind of got out of our rhythm and they started to press us. They probably should have had a goal and then they came out flying in the second half until we got that second goal,” said Aidan McCluskey, who is in his first season as Ridgewood’s head coach. “It was lucky really, a little bit of a fluke, but whatever…That got us back on track.”
Emerson will be a legitimate contender when the North 1, Group 1 state sectional tournament rolls around and it had posted nine wins and a draw in its first 10 games of the season, but even with that resume, it was the Cavos that had to adjust up to the speed and physicality of the game. Ridgewood has been through the Big North wars and was first to on most balls, which led to increasing pressure on the Emerson goal early on.
The pressure finally paid dividends in the 26th minute when Luca Florida put a shot on frame. Emerson keeper Declan Pattermann made the save, but George Edwards, on his 18th birthday, was right there to hammer home the rebound to give the Maroons the lead for good.
“It was my birthday today so I wanted to do something memorable. Luca put in the shot, the goalie saved it and it fell right to me so it was basically just a tap in,” said Edwards, in the authentic accent of an Englishman. “It definitely settled the team’s nerves and I thought we had control of the game after the goal, but we are always confident. We can play until the end of the game and then get the goal if we have to because we have that confidence to stay after it.”
Emerson had three quality chances to get back even before the break. Kyle Covello raced in up the left and lined a service toward the 6 where Stephen Paino got some pace on his header only to see it slip just wide of Thomas Benson’s net. In the 38th minute, Jack Dunican was taken down just outside the area and then got on the back side of the wall on the restart for a volley that also finished just wide. And just before the halftime whistle, Dunican again got in amongst a tangle of feet in the area, but the Ridgewood defense converged to clear the danger and keep its 1-0 advantage heading to the intermission.
The Cavos picked up right where they left off for the first five minutes of the second half before Mack bolted down the left on the counter attack and squeezed his ‘shot’ into the small window at the near post.
“I was not shooting, I’ll be honest,” said Mack. “I will take whatever I can get. Anything to help my team out and it just worked out perfectly.”
Dean Anzalone added a goal from the penalty spot with three minutes to go to add the final margin and to send Ridgewood on in the tournament. Next up is sixth-seeded Cliffside Park in an 11:00 a.m. start on Sunday also at Emerson, which goes from a first round road venue to a neutral site for the Round of 16. It was in the same round and at the same place that Ridgewood (5-4-2) was eliminated by eventual finalist Tenafly in a penalty kick shootout.
“This is the field that we lost on in penalties to Tenafly, so I wanted to come back here and do it for the seniors from last year and do it for this team,” said Edwards, a senior. “I have a lot of emotions. I am happy to win and hopefully make a long run in this tournament for my last year.”
Emerson’s tournament run is over for this year, but judging by head coach Jeremy Truppi’s uplifting postgame speech, the season did not end here.
“[Ridgewood] is a great team and I don’t feel like they deserved a play-in game. There only losses came from Top 5 teams and they are excellent. We got a bad draw because they are that good, but I like that draw because my guys needed a challenge like that. This is our first loss of the season and that only makes us better,” said Truppi, whose team came in having outscored its opponents by a combined 36-2. “That second goal was the learning experience for us because when they scored it my team was different, a couple of guys running around with their heads down. This is the first time we have been behind all year and the first time that a team has really given us that pressure. I wanted that because it can only help us from here.”
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