Call it coach’s intuition.
With his team deadlocked in a 0-0 tie in overtime and unable to solve Smithtown West goalkeeper Brian Dugan, Brentwood coach Ron Eden had one last idea in desperation.
Eden, almost inexplicably, decided to slide sophomore midfielder Edgar Sorto into the forward position.
“I don’t know what it was,” Eden said, “I just had a gut feeling.”
The move paid almost immediate dividends. Two minutes after Eden made his unusual decision, Sorto, who had never played forward, took a pass from sophomore forward Ever Torres and kicked it past a diving Dugan in the 94th minute to give top-seeded Brentwood a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory over No. 13 Smithtown West Sunday in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals at Brentwood High School.
“I always wanted to play forward,” Sorto said. “I always wanted to score in a big game and I finally did it.”
Added Eden: “This was the challenge of all challenges for us and I didn’t think the ball was gonna go in the net, but it did. This is playoff soccer and everyone rises to the occasion. I put him in and I got lucky.”
Following the goal, Sorto’s teammates poured off the bench and onto the field and the celebration began for unbeaten Brentwood (17-0-0). Sorto’s goal ended the frustration that was mounting as Brentwood, ranked No. 2 in the country by the NSCAA, threw everything it had at Dugan and couldn’t seem to score.
“There was some big frustration there,” said Torres, who is playing with a hurt hamstring. “I finally saw [Sorto] wide open and fed the pass to him for a big goal. I can’t even explain this feeling.”
The game was the third straight game for Brentwood in as many days and victory didn’t come easily. Dugan robbed Brentwood over and over again from point blank range in regulation, making sprawling saves and snuffing out chance after chance. The senior made 12 saves overall and was under duress most of the game, but held his own.
It seemed as though Brentwood was going to break through early in overtime, twice putting the ball past Dugan, only for Smithtown’s defenders to swoop in and keep the ball out of the net.
Sorto finally ended more than an hour and a half of agony with one kick that melted Brentwood’s frustration into pure jubilation.
Despite being eliminated, it was a storybook postseason for Smithtown West, which upset No. 4 Northport in the first round and then defeated 12th-seeded Sachem East inthe quarterfinals. It looked as though Smithtown was en route to another surprise victory behind the stellar play of Dugan, but it could only muster up two shots on goal and both were turned away by Brentwood senior goalkeeper Raul Bonilla.
Brentwood will now vie for a fifth consecutive Suffolk title Monday, taking on Half Hollow Hills East at Dowling College. It will be the Indians fourth game in as many days, but Eden knows his team is just happy to be there.
“This schedule is brutal,” Eden said. “This is the finals and we’re playing a good team. We don’t care who we’re playing anymore, we’re just glad to be there and we won’t take it for granted.”