PLAINFIELD – The Plainfield High School boys soccer team has had some signature wins this season, but they needed to add another to the list in order to advance in this year’s state tournament.
The Cardinals found a spark late in the second half, as Kevin Castellanos went unmarked in the box, heading a cross into the back of the net with just under 10 minutes remaining to give the fourth-seeded Cardinals a 2-1 victory over fifth-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan on Thursday in the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV tournament.
“I liked the intensity,” said Cardinals’ head coach Ronald Umana. “Defensively, the whole team was really good as well.”
The conditions of the field were a bit difficult to deal with for both teams, with rain falling the entire length of the match. The rain started early Thursday morning, and it caused muddy conditions, and puddles that started to form over the course of the game.
“It throws the whole game plan out the window,” said Umana of the weather. “You’re playing against the elements and the bad field and I just told my boys that they couldn’t take too many touches on the ball…They did really well with that, nothing got past them and they did a great job.”
The scoring opened about 20 minutes into the game, when forward Kelvin Rivera received a pass inside the Panthers’ box. Rivera showcased beautiful moves with his feet, faking out multiple defenders the get an open shot. With just the goalkeeper to beat, Rivera slid the ball into the back of the net to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
“He has a lot of skill and he can make things happen like that,” said Umana. “I always tell him to get the ball and get inside the area because they can’t touch you or it’s a penalty kick, and he has good skill to get the shot off, and he was able to do that a few times.”
The Cardinals held the lead until late in the first half, when the Panthers got a spark from a substitute. Danny Voelker entered the game with about eight minutes to go in the first half, and the ball stopped dead in its tracks right in front of the net. Voelker was able to spring free and get a shot off, tying the game 1-1 into halftime.
The 1-1 tie would hold until late in the second half, when the Cardinals got a much-needed goal from an unlikely source. Castellanos ran straight into the box as the ball traveled down the sideline. When a cross came in, Castellanos was able to find an opening and head the ball into the net for a 2-1 lead with fewer than 10 minutes to play.
“It was just a perfect ball at the right place and he was in the right place at the right time,” said Umana. “It can’t get better than that.”
The Cardinals highly successful season continues, as they look to make a deep run in the state tournament. While the journey won’t be easy, Umana is confident his team can hang with the best of the area.
“I expect us to make it to the finals,” said Umana. “Any day anybody can be anybody but we have just as good a chance now, and I expect to win the next game to play in the finals.”
Staff Writer Mike Jago: firstname.lastname@example.org