Valley Stream North’s winning streak on the soccer pitch reached four games on Sept. 27 when junior forward Juan Rivera’s two goals led the visiting Spartans past Mineola, 2-1, in Conference A-VII.
The game-winning tally, Rivera’s team-leading fourth of the year, came 12 minutes into the second half after he took a headed pass from senior midfielder Rafael Montoya and beat goalkeeper Andrew Pereira with a nifty one-on-one move. North improved to 4-1 in conference play and 5-2 overall.
“We brought back a strong group and set our goals high,” said coach Dave Aguado, who last season guided the Spartans to the quarterfinal round of the Nassau Class A playoffs. “We’ve got talent and excellent leadership. We’ve got about 10 kids who are captain material,” he added.
Junior midfielder Andres Salcedo set up Rivera’s first goal midway through the first half, but the Mustangs pulled even a few minutes later on a Justin Sandler goal. It was the first shot to beat North senior goalkeeper Pio Bonfitto, who came into the game with three consecutive shutouts, since Sept. 11. Junior Alec D’Aluisa, who was instrumental in the team’s success in 2011, played the second half and shut the door with three saves.
“We’re solid in every area and have two confident keepers,” Aguado said. “We want to get back to the level we were last year and go deeper in the playoffs.”
Rivera, who also has three assists, and senior Adley Voltaire put the pressure on opponents up front. Rivera’s extremely skilled, Aguado said, and Voltaire, who found the net in identical 4-0 wins over Roosevelt and Clarke, brings a combination of speed and strength.
Defensively, the Spartans look nothing like they did a year ago but didn’t take long to develop chemistry. Senior fullback Rich Vergara is a three-year starter in the back and does whatever it takes to get the job done. He’s been joined by a pair of former midfielders — seniors Lerthon Theuma and Joe Cafaro — and one of the most talented youngsters — eighth-grader Evan Peters — in the conference.
Theuma, a stopper who moved from center-midfield, is one of the premier players in the conference, Aguado said. He set up junior Roody Derineau for the game’s only goal Sept. 24 when North edged West Hempstead. “He flies all over the field and is an extension of me,” the coach said of Theuma, who has scored three times off set plays. “He’s just an awesome all-around player.” Cafaro used to patrol the midfield as well but has found a home at sweeper. “It was a big adjustment, but Joe’s fast, athletic and vocal and fit right in,” Aguado explained.
Montoya, who has two goals and two assists, and junior Edwin Hernandez are the offensive and defensive center-midfielders, respectively, while Salcedo and fellow junior Danny Cossu work the outside.
“We’re playing well but not looking past anyone,” Aguado said.
The Spartans travel to face conference-leading Island Trees for a 7 p.m. start on