Considering that Rye Neck has only four seniors on its roster, its run to a Section 1 Class B title came as a surprise to many.
But talent knows no age, and sophomore striker Luis Galeano is about as gifted as they come.
“I feel great. I feel that I’m in my best form,” Galeano said. “We’re a very young team, and I think it took time for everything to develop and for everybody to get on the same page. But since the playoffs started, we’ve gotten our minds straight with everything that we want to do and I think we’re just executing the game plan right now.”
One key component of the Panthers’ game plan has been to get the ball to Galeano. So far, no one has been able to stop him.
Galeano scored both goals — his 20th and 21st of the season — in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Section 9 champion Highland in a regional semifinal at Faller Field.
The win sends Rye Neck (13-5-3) to Saturday’s regional final against Section 11 champ Mattituck at Diamond in the Pines in Coram, New York.
“He’s amazing,” sophomore midfielder Pierre Klur said of Galeano. “We all know he’s a great player, and the fact that he’s able to continue to score even when the other teams are aware of him shows really how good he is.”
From right, Rye Neck’s Pierre Klur (11) and Highlands Ben Ratick (9) battles for ball control during the boys soccer Class B regional semifinal at Middletown High School Nov. 5, 2014. Rye Neck won the game 2-0.
A first half that featured a lot of back-and-forth action concluded with an onslaught by the Panthers.
It didn’t result in a goal, but the push carried over into the second half, when Galeano followed his own rebound in the 43rd minute to make it 1-0.
“I saw space and it was a nice through ball from (Takuno Nishimura),” Galeano said. “I missed the first shot on a great save by the keeper, but luckily I got the rebound and I put it in.”
Rye Neck only allowed Highland to take four shots in the second half, and in the 74th minute, Galeano sealed the win with a header off Reed Peterson’s corner kick.
“We’ve told these guys all year that there is no age on the soccer field and they’ve bought into it,” said Bryan Iacovelli, who coaches Rye Neck with Frank Gizzo. “Most of the teams we’ve faced in the playoffs thus far have been predominantly upperclassmen and it hasn’t mattered to them. They believe they can win whenever they step onto field.”