Now that we’ve had some time to digest all of the first round action from Friday, I wanted to take a few moments to highlight some of the performances which stood out. I’ve tried to identify which teams looked strong, which pulled off upsets and which narrowly avoided them. I’ve also noted which quarterfinals matchup in each class I find to be the most intriguing.
I’ll be back tomorrow with our new #lohudsoccer Player of the Week announcement, so send me your nominations!
Most dominant performance: Arlington and Horace Greeley — It’s difficult to decide between the two efforts, so I’ll take both. The top-seeded Admirals beat Saunders handily with a 6-0 win, scoring all of their goals in the first half before emptying their bench. And the fourth-seeded Quakers cruised to a 5-1 win over a North Rockland team that had allowed just one goal in its previous eight games prior to Friday. Matt Neuberger had a hat trick during a two-minute span in the first half, a feat that I’ve never seen at any level.
Biggest upset: Suffern — All of the home teams won in Class AA, but it’s safe to say that most people (myself included) were picking No. 9 John Jay-East Fishkill to come out on top against eighth-seeded Suffern. But the Mounties took care of business against the defending champs, sending the Patriots home much earlier than last season with a 2-0 win. Zac Lloyd and Sebastian Rojas scored and assisted each other to give Suffern one of its most notable wins in years.
Biggest scare: Scarsdale — The third-seeded Raiders were matched up against league rival White Plains for the third time this season, so there weren’t going to be any surprises in terms of personnel. They beat WP 3-0 in their season-opener and had a tighter 2-1 win later in the season, and on Friday, the Tigers closed the gap even more. They took a 1-0 lead into the halftime, but Fayez Merchant equalized in the second half and Michael Spiro starved off the upset with a golden goal in the second overtime period for a 2-1 win.
Most intriguing quarterfinal matchup: No. 5 Mamaroneck at No. 4 Horace Greeley — Before the playoffs began, I mentioned seven teams in Class AA that I thought were capable of winning it all. Greeley and Mamaroneck were two of those teams. Both have red-hot goal-scorers – Neuberger for the Quakers and Alex Alma for the Tigers – but you’d have to say that Greeley has a bit more offensive depth. On the other hand, I’d probably give Mamaroneck a slight edge defensively, especially with an emerging keeper in Dante Rhodes. This is a very tough one to pick, and these teams tend to play tight matches. Remember, it was Greeley who upset Mamaroneck in the semis two years ago after the Tigers finished the regular season undefeated.
Most dominant performance: Riverside — All season long, I’ve received questions about the legitimacy of the Rams. I think it’s time that we put that talk to bed. No team in Section 1 has scored at the pace in which Riverside is finding the back of the net. It’s uncanny. The Rams just hung eight goals on Harrison in the first round and seem to be clicking on all cylinders. Freddy Nava is a top notch player and he has significant talent around him. It’s time to start taking the Rams seriously.
Biggest upset: Eastchester — Granted, the Eagles played Rye, a league rival, very tough throughout the season. I saw them take the Garnets to overtime in their first meeting back in early September, and their second meeting was also a close 3-2 loss. I considered picking Eastchester in my predictions, but I ultimately decided that I couldn’t overlook a resurgent Rye team – the only team to beat defending champ Byram Hills this season. As it turned out, the Eagles showed that they’re much better than you average No. 12 seed, upsetting the Garnets with a 1-0 overtime win.
Biggest scare: Byram Hills — Who saw that one coming? The second-seeded Bobcats are my pick to win it all, but No. 15 Brewster shook them up and took them to OT in an unexpectedly tight first round contest. A scoreless game at the half, the Bears took a 1-0 lead on Christian Rivadeneira’s goal in the 58th minute, which had to shake up the Byram faithful. But the Bobcats responded quickly, with David Noel equalizing in the 64th minute. They were on the verge of the always-dramatic penalty kick shootout when Ryan Starker headed in the golden goal for the 2-1 win in double OT. I was told that Byram outshot Brewster, 18-3, but the Bobcats need to improve on their finishing if they want to get back to the promised land.
Most intriguing quarterfinal matchup: No. 6 Riverside at No. 3 Tappan Zee — I could have easily put Byram vs. Pelham here. Those teams seem to meet in the playoffs and have formed a heated rivalry over the years. But with the way that the Rams are rolling, this game against TZ would be hard to pass up. The Dutchmen pride themselves on defense and this Riverside attack will be one of their biggest tests of the year. They played during the regular season, which resulted in a 2-2 tie.
Most dominant performance: Rye Neck — You could make a case for Bronxville and/or Hastings here, who also put up five goals in their first round matches, but I think you have to look at the quality of the opponent for Rye Neck. While Bronxville and Hastings were playing sub-.500 teams, the Panthers hung a 5-1 win on an Albertus Magnus team which had a really solid season. Don’t forget, the Falcons played top-seeded Valhalla extremely tough in a 3-2 loss at the Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge. Rye Neck beating them in that fashion really stood out to me.
Biggest upset: Blind Brook — In reality, there weren’t any games in Class B that you could label as a true “upset.” The ninth-seeded Trojans were the only road team to win, a 2-1 overtime victory at No. 8 Putnam Valley, but I don’t think that shocked too many people. Blind Brook has a history of postseason success and was only seeded one spot behind the Tigers.
Biggest scare: Edgemont — Matched up against 14th-seeded Ardsley, Edgemont was deadlocked in a scoreless tie until the 78th minute. That’s when Drew Simon and Nikash Taskar – Edgemont’s two most consistent offensive threats – made a play to save the day. Simon’s shot was saved, but Taskar buried the rebound for a 1-0 win. I was told that Ardsley goalkeeper John Getz played a tremendous game.
Most intriguing quarterfinal matchup: No. 7 Rye Neck at No. 2 Bronxville — This was an easy pick because it’s a rematch of last year’s Class B final. Rye Neck won that 3-2 thanks to a goal from Luis Galeano with less than two minutes to play, and the teams look very similar from last year. Both brought back seven or eight starters. Bronxville has been clicking all season, but the Panthers got off to a slow start at 2-5-1. Since then, they haven’t lost in nine games, going 8-0-1, so Rye Neck is certainly back on track. That sets up a very exciting game. This should feel more like a semifinal or final.
First round results:Recaps from all 23 of Friday’s playoff games
Schedule:Full schedule for the Section 1 playoffs with times for Monday’s quarterfinals