(Central Jersey) - The Real Central NJ Soccer (RCNJ) men’s USL League Two team played with heart and earned its third win of the season, a 5-4 victory, against Philadelphia Lone Star on Friday, June 17th. As the teams faced each other for the third time this season, physicality was expected just like in the previous matches — and the stakes were even higher for Philly Lone Star to try to steal a win in its final matchup against RCNJ in 2022. Head coach Brian Woods said, “they didn’t know who we were going to be because of last year. They weren’t ready for us and I felt in the first match we were so hyped up,” when asked which matchup against Philadelphia Lone Star of the season was RCNJ’s best.
The first goal of the match came almost instantaneously for Philadelphia Lone Star in the second minute when RCNJ defenders seemed to be waiting for an off-sides call and played the assistant ref’s flag instead of the whistle. In that moment of hesitation, forward Kanibah Kutu-Akoi snuck in and tapped the ball past RCNJ goalkeeper Jake Langley; this was an unfortunate start for Real Central NJ.
Midfielder Hale Lombard played an outstanding game last night whether it was helping RCNJ out on defense or waiting for an opportunity to strike on the attack. In the 16th minute, Lombard fed the ball to forward Wesley Legget who launched it from the top of the penalty area with a left-foot shot right over defenders’ and goalkeeper Liam Smith’s heads. RCNJ kept its spirits high as well as its drive to win for the duration of the match, all accompanied by a stand-out performance from “Player of the Match” midfielder, Ethan Shaw.
The first period was nothing short of eventful with a total of six goals being scored in those 45 minutes. Lombard looked to score RCNJ’s second goal in the 20th minute but the shot was slowed down by a Philly player’s hand, giving Smith the time to save it. With protest, Real Central NJ asked for a hand-ball and the ref complied giving Lombard a second chance to finish his shot, this time from the penalty spot. In a clever fake-out, Lombard approached the free-kick as if it was going to the left side of the goal but changed his direction and sent the ball flying past Smith to his right in the 21st minute.
Philly retaliated in the 28th minute with a corner kick from defender Joseph Abrahart. Goalkeeper Jake Langley stepped out of goal to jump up for a save but was bested by a header from August Axtman, awarding Philadelphia Lone Star with its second goal. With the plan of breaking the deadlock, Philadelphia’s Joel Richmond approached the box with speed and after faking out RCNJ defenders with quick footwork, he was able to shoot the ball past Langley in the 34th minute.
An unwavering Hale Lombard attacked Philly’s goal, trying to once again tie the game. After three unsuccessful efforts, Lombard was redeemed in the 44th minute with a high pass from Nick Cruz which he approached with an outstanding dive, heading the ball to the back of the net. The first period concluded with a 3-3 tie.
While the second period did not have as many goals scored, it certainly did not fall short on excitement. RCNJ forward Stas Korzeniowski approached the right side of Philadelphia’s goal in a neck and neck race with a defender and with the help of Nick Cruz, he was able to shuffle the ball through Smith’s legs just before the line where midfielder Daniel Tittelmeyer barreled through finishing the shot in the 51st minute.
The next 20 minutes of the period consisted of switching possessions and trying attempts for a goal from both teams. In the 74th minute, Philadelphia Lone Star took a corner kick against RCNJ and just like earlier in the match, due to a yellow card being issued to RCNJ’s Karell Buitendijk, a free-kick was issued from the penalty box. Philadelphia’s Alvin Dahn confidently took the shot, sending the ball over Langley’s head and tying the score 4-4 in the 76th minute. It seemed as though the match would end with a tie when another 10 minutes passed, nearing the period’s end, with no goals scored.
Then, in the 87th minute, Real Central NJ’s Luke Pompliano and Daniel Tittelmayer advanced the ball to Philadelphia Lone Star’s goal. In a cluster of players trying to get the ball, returning player Sergio Aguinaga flew in on a return pass from Tittelmeyer and scored the winning goal of the match. RCNJ bench shot to their feet and raced to the sidelines to hug their teammates in celebration.
Whether it was beating Philly Lone Star to the ball or creating opportunities for his teammates to score, RCNJ was fortunate to have previously injured player Sergio Aguinaga back on the field for this heated home match. “I watched the last game here because I was injured and both games had a ton of goals. I feel like after three games they knew us a little bit better but we took care of defense and our attack was nice getting those five goals,” Aguinaga commented.
Although the match had a few minutes left, Philadelphia Lone Star remained unsuccessful in scoring an equalizer and the score remained the same. The whistle blew in the 93rd minute, ending last night’s riveting match 5-4 RCNJ. “After Wednesday’s midweek disaster, we were able to get our emotions right and our mentality right. Even though it’s a 5-4 victory, it’s a 5-4 victory against a very difficult team,” Woods said at the match’s end.
Real Central NJ Soccer men’s team will return home on Friday, June 24th against Lehigh Valley United at 7 pm after playing away against the Ocean City Nor’easters Sunday. The WPSL women’s team will face Torch FC at home on Sunday, June 26th at 6 pm.