Yorktown cruises past Yonkers
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It has been feast or famine for the Yorktown boys soccer club in 2012.
The Huskers managed to score a combined one goal in their trio of losses to Arlington, Lakeland and Beacon. They have done the exact opposite in their four wins, racking up an eye-popping 19 goals.
In Thursday's match against Yonkers, the Huskers (4-3) came hungry and left the nets full.
Yorktown jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead en route to a dominating 5-2 win over the visiting Bulldogs at Legacy Field in Yorktown.
"The games we lost were because we came out so slow," senior captain Ryan Roche said. "Once (the other team) scored one, they kept on scoring and we were out of it. Today, were finishing our chances, possessing the ball more and creating more chances."
Roche was the mastermind behind it all, breaking down Yonkers' defense like a champion chess player. He was unflappable on the ball, knowing when to setup teammates with precise passes and when to take on defenders at pace. Roche led the Huskers' offense with a pair of goals and an assist. He has team-high seven goals and six assists on the year.
"He's been terrific this year," Yorktown coach Ed Polchinski said. "He sees the field very, very well. His skill level is very remarkable."
More importantly, Roche has been the most important building block to a Huskers squad that lost 14 seniors to graduation in 2011.
"It has taken some time, but we are getting a little more confidence in our team," Polchinski said. "We have a very talented group and it was just them working together. It seems they are now buying into the system and playing as a team and not as individuals. They are getting confidence in each other."
According to Polchinski, Yorktown's game plan against Yonkers was to possess the ball, get in behind the defense and pepper Bulldogs keeper Aidan Tansey with shots. Needless to say, the Huskers carried it out beautifully, outshooting Yonkers 27-19 while also controlling the run of play.
And Yorktown wasted little time getting it going, as Luk Saljanin buried the game's first goal just two minutes and 49 seconds into regulation. The senior striker deftly finished on a breakaway that was setup by Kevin Fogarty's flick-on header.
Saljanin, who finished with a pair of goals and now has five on the year, has taken over as Yorktown's top target up top. His older brother Zef — a current member of the SUNY Oneonta men's soccer team — fulfilled the role in 2011.
"He's filling in where his brother left off," Polchinski said. "He's a very tenacious player up top. His style is very tough and he's strong facing with his back to the goal."
Roche doubled the Huskers' lead in the 25th minute, converting a penalty kick that was awarded after Noah Migliore was taken down by Tansey. Saljanin then struck again in the 27th minute, slotting home a sitter on the 6-yard box off a delivery from Roche, who snaked his way through Yonkers' entire defense before crossing the ball at the end line.
"I originally wanted to pass the ball and took one guy on and kept on going and just passed it across," Roche said of the highlight-worthy play.
Yorktown kept up the momentum in the second half, as senior forward Henry Mora scored off a setup from Nick Leader in the 46th minute.
Mora didn't have enough practices to start the season and missed the first few games due to ineligibility. But he's more than made up for lost time, totaling four goals in four games while seriously bolstering the Huskers' attack.
"Mora and Saljanin work very, very well together," Polchinski said.
Roche extended Yorktown's lead to 5-0 in the 56th minute, running onto a long through ball from Leader for the easy breakaway finish.
Yonkers (5-1) — which entered the game undefeated — scored both its goals inside the final 20 minutes of regulation. Top playmaker Chris Cruz struck first in the the 61st minute, blasting a shot from 23 yards out into the lower right corner. Nabeel Qawasmi capped the scoring in the 78th minute on a shot from distance.
Despite coming out on the losing end, it was a valuable learning experience for Yonkers. With a schedule that features predominantly Yonkers-based schools, the Bulldogs don't always face the stiffest competition. It undoubtedly hurt them last season, as they put together a sparkling 14-0-1 regular season campaign but were upset by Somers in the opening round of the Section 1 Class A playoffs.
"We like playing up," Yonkers coach Janet Ryan said. "It challenges us and gives us a good picture of what to look forward to. It was a good competition. Unfortunately, (Yorktown) won."
Yorktown will hope for the same outcome in its next game against visiting Lourdes on Saturday. Yonkers will look to bounce back against host Riverside on Friday.
* Follow Isaac Cass on Twitter @MSGV_Icass *