By Benito Vila
Once in a while things just go a player’s way. So it was for Whaler forward Jake Federico on Tuesday in Mashashimuet Park as he posted four first half goals in leading Pierson to a 4-2 win over Greenport to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
The Whalers are now 3-4-1 in League VIII, set to take on league leader Port Jefferson there today, before rounding out the team’s away schedule at Ross next Thursday. The following week closes out the team’s regular season, Stony Brook and Southold making their way out to play in the park.
This past week saw the Whalers playoff hopes rocked by close losses, Southold prevailing 2-1 in overtime last Wednesday and Smithtown Christian holding on 1-0 Friday. More than one loss the rest of the way will eliminate the Pierson boys from post-season play, a .500 record or better required for the county tournaments.
Coach Donnelly McGovern called the Southold match “a heartbreaker. The boys played with tremendous determination and will throughout the match, but we failed to move the ball out of the defensive third quickly and Southold capitalized on it and buried the ball in the goal in the first sudden-death overtime period.”
At Smithtown Christian an early goal forced the Whalers to play from behind. Coach McGovern said, “We were fighting to get the equalizer on Friday but it never came. One of the reasons it never came is that we failed to open up the Smithtown Christian defense. We constantly attempted to go through their strong central defenders. We failed to use the flanks and this limited the number of scoring opportunities we were able to generate.”
One, Two, Three, Four
The scoring opportunities were there Tuesday, the offense opening up the field at home and Federico finding open seams in the Porters’ defense. His first score put Pierson up 1-0 barely five minutes in to the match, the next two making the action somewhat scrimmage-like, the Whalers holding a 3-0 not even mid-way through the first half.
But then the Porters came back, posting a pair of goals in the space of a few minutes, the Whalers letting down their guard. The Porters’ potent attack made the game “nerve-racking” for Coach McGovern, regardless of the score. “They are the type of team that will jump it up a notch if they are a goal down. At times we gave them too much space and we failed to win balls in the air.”
Federico capitalized on a rebound for his fourth goal to give Pierson some breathing room at 4-2, the defense tightening up with Coach McGovern making some adjustments. At the half, Coach McGovern moved Sean Hartnett to the midfield “to win balls and to distribute from the center. He played a strong match and made very good decisions. Jeff Schimmer also did a nice job defensively of clearing balls and winning battles inside the penalty area.”
“All the players played hard and determined [Tuesday], but I feel the difference over Friday was that we finished opportunities and played a more spirited match. Tactically, we did a much better job today of utilizing the width of the field as we moved the ball into the attacking third of the field.”
“And Jake moved extremely well off the ball which allowed us to exploit them because he created space for himself. If he continues to do this consistently against our future opponents, we will be successful.”
Fed Shakes It All Off
When asked about his take on the game, Federico, a senior, spoke mostly about his teammates, saying, “It was basically everyone in the backfield forcing the ball up; Gabe Burford, Christian [Gonzales], Kyle [McGowin] and Jeff in particular. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to play the ball wide and attack the goal.”
He also added, “Skyler Loesch was awesome up front in the first half, winning the 50-50 balls and distributing them to where their was room to work. We played great today, now we have to look to Port Jeff.”
Looking ahead to today’s match and beyond, Coach McGovern said, “In order for us to be playing into November, we will have to play every match even more determined than [Tuesday]. We will need to be even more focused and consistent in our play. We will need to make quicker decisions as we open up our opponents defensively.”
“Port Jefferson will be a better opponent than Greenport. I believe we can play with anyone and beat any opponent. The difference will be if the boys show up to perform and play with heart and desire to finish on top that day for the entire match.”