Martin Luther King midfielder Michael Henry felt the anticipation building throughout the week leading up to his team’s first matchup of the season against division rivals Beacon on Friday afternoon.
“I was feeling energized, ready to play,” Henry said.
Martin Luther King came out strong from the start, scoring three goals in each half to complete a comprehensive 6-1 victory at Riverside Park. The Knights, ranked No. 1 in New York City by MSG Varsity, received three goals from striker Amara Sesay and Michael Henry added two assists along with a goal for the reigning PSAL champions.
The Knights (8-0-0) dictated a fast tempo with Henry and Tarek Beckles, who returned from an injury to record a goal and an assist, orchestrating from the midfield. They were able to convert on plenty of scoring chances, which Henry said was a focal point this week in practice coming off a recent 2-0 non-league defeat to St. Anthony’s at Belson Stadium.
“It’s a funny sport. You can finish a lot and sometimes you let a goal through and they win the game,” MLK coach Martin Jacobson said. “Today we played King soccer. Complete control and possession of the ball.”
It didn’t take long for the Knights to get on the scoreboard. Henry slid a pass to a streaking Sesay, who took a touch and slid the ball past Beacon goalkeeper Jens Olavson for a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.
Jacobson has been impressed by the scoring touch from Sesay, a junior who added to his league-leading total of 20 goals. Sesay struck again three minutes later. Henry struck a pass across the box and Sesay tapped in the ball near the left post for a 2-0 MLK advantage.
No. 3 Beacon (6-1-0) allowed MLK too much space to pass. That afforded Henry to fend off a defender and head the ball into the net to put the Knights up 3-0 with less than 10 minutes left in the half.
Beacon coach Alec Mahrer made an adjustment by pressuring the Knights forwards and the Blue Demons started creating some chances of their own. It paid off as Thomas Luke Guest benefited off a failed clearance and stuffed the ball in the net to cut the Knights lead to 3-1 in the 50th minute.
It was the only bright spot for the Blue Demons. Sesay finished off his hat trick when he struck an 8-yard shot into net in the 56th minute. Tarek Beckles scored in the 71st and Jesus Sanmartin added the last goal on an impressive one-touch volley off his left foot.
The first loss of the season was a tough one to absorb for a young Beacon team, which only returned three players and currently start four sophomores. Mahrer is hopeful his team will able to shake off the nerves in the rematch October 22.
“They’re obviously very talented and put it in the net. We were definitely tentative and we gave up those early chances,” Mahrer said. “At that point it was tough to come back. We’re a very young team and there were some nerves involved.”
Even prior to the season, Jacobson was sure he had one of his most talented squads in years. The goal was to also finish near the top of the national rankings, but the loss to St. Anthony’s left MLK off the NSCAA poll released Tuesday
Even with solid wins against Newburgh Free Academy and White Plains, the MLK coach is quite happy to scrap the idea about gaining a high national ranking. The goal as always is for the Knights to be the last PSAL team standing in mid-November.
“We play a competitive schedule, we play five hard non-league games, six tough scrimmages and we know we’re in first place in our division and we got to play them again,” Jacobson said. “Our kids were able to play well today and been doing it every game.”