After a 5-3-6 regular season record in Nassau Conference A2, the Glen Cove Big Red boys’ soccer is preparing for a playoff matchup one year removed from a county championship.
Despite battling some key injuries throughout the season, Glen Cove will ride its talented roster, sound gameplan, and stellar coaching into the playoff bracket. As for the opponent, head coach Brian Smith respects all competitors, but doesn't believe it matters who they draw first.
“We have respect for a bunch of teams, and even have reverence for those teams but, as we do, we prepare for every single opponent,” Smith said. “To be champions you've gotta face the best at some point, anyway, there is no avoiding good teams. In order to be the best team, you have to beat the best.”
With three games left on its schedule, Glen Cove needed a key win to secure a better-than .500 league record to propel it into the playoffs. That is when they stomped into Roslyn, taking a 2-0 victory on the road and pushing their league record to two wins over .500.
“The success in that game, just like all of our success, was based on good team structure,” said Smith, who preaches that idea heavily to his players. “With good defensive structure, that leads to possession time, passing in the midfield, leading to creativity, opportunities, and eventually goals.”
Marlon Guillen, usually a sound facilitator, netted one for Glen Cove in this victory, along with talented sophomore Niko Vidal later in the game. The Big Red’s next match saw the final whistle sound with a score that was knotted up at two a piece, ending in a tie. Glen Cove would eventually drop its regular-season finale to Bethpage 4-1.
Glen Cove’s starting goalkeeper in the draw, Jason Hernandez, was injured in the previous win and was noticeably hindered a bit, but still showed valiant effort and heart managing 5 saves.
As has been the case with some other key players, unfortunate injuries have occurred, but through it all many stepped up to lead the team to a playoff spot.
One such call-up was JV player and freshman Michael Battle, who was looked at in tryouts to be a possible candidate for promotion to varsity, has played well as of late. “He’s played well as of late; in line to be a top center back in the county in the future,” Smith said.
Smith has some talented players in the fold, including defenseman Justin Maldanado, senior sensation Jelson Bonilla, Guillen, etc., but the ability to come together as a unit and play to each others strengths are what has Glen Cove ready for any competitor.
The mindset of Glen Cove going into the Nassau Class A playoffs is simple and unwavering: preach and practice defensive efficiency and lead those turnovers to offensive opportunities in the attacking half.
“Our focus has and will continue to be goal prevention is more important than goal production, but goal prevention, in theory, should lead to goal production,” Smith explains. “If we stay structured and play the way we’re supposed to defensively, then it is acceptable to be creative on the offensive counter. We can have guys push towards the net with creativity and make plays. We’ll have those opportunities.”