(Central Jersey) - The Real Central NJ Soccer (RCNJ) men’s USL League Two team faced Lehigh Valley United for the second time this season at home on Friday, June 24th. In this close match, both teams persistently worked towards securing the win and with the final score 3-2, RCNJ proved to be victorious.
Loss of possession was a common theme for Real Central NJ in the first half with Lehigh Valley repeatedly swooping in to steal the ball before a successful play could be carried out. Scoring opened up for Lehigh Valley United early into the first period when Steven Riad promptly launched the ball towards goal from the 18 past RCNJ’s Jake Langley whose dive to the right wasn’t fast enough. Although the match’s start wasn’t one they had hoped for, Real Central NJ refused to let it set the tone for the remainder of it.
A tenacious Stas Korzeniowski advanced the ball into Lehigh territory in a neck and neck race against a defender who was successful in pushing him further outside the box, giving him a tough angle to attempt a shot from. Instead of haphazardly sending the ball to goal, more than likely to the goalkeeper’s hands, Korzeniowski settled the ball to the left and searched for an opportunity. Spotting midfielder Daniel Tittelmayer approaching the box, Korzeniowski tapped the ball to the middle where he was able to step in and score RCNJ’s first goal of the match in the 12th minute. This evened the score for RCNJ and gave the men the confidence boost they needed to continue their efforts wisely for the rest of the match.
Just eight minutes later another neck and neck race occurred, this time in RCNJ’s territory, when Lehigh Valley’s Zachary Mikuta barrelled down the left wing against Cole Sotack in a struggle for the ball. After Sotack had pushed him to the wing so far down the field, it seemed as though the ball would definitely go out of bounds. However, with quick footwork, Mikuta was able to keep the ball in bounds and cross it to forward Nigel Griffith who ran the middle and sent the ball flying past Langley in the 20th minute.
In comparison to Real Central NJ’s past experiences playing against Philadelphia Lone Star, this match definitely contained a decent amount of unfavorable contact which led to fouls just past double digits being called against both RCNJ and Lehigh Valley United. RCNJ attacker Wesley Legget received the brunt of Lehigh’s fouls, both recorded and unrecorded, seen being tripped or shoved constantly for the duration of the match. “It happens a lot, you just have to get used to it and not have a reaction,” Legget commented. Three yellow cards were issued during last night’s match, two of them for RCNJ with head coach Brian Woods earning one.
The first period ended with the score 2-1, in favor of Lehigh Valley United. The second period opened with a few early scoring opportunities for Korzeniowski, however, he just couldn’t successfully execute the shots he took. The energy from RCNJ was definitely intensified in the second half whether it was from an encouraging half-time talk with coaches, fresh legs, or a combination of both.
When asked about the change of pace for RCNJ, Hale Lombard said “coach picked up on what we were messing up in the first half, which led to a much stronger second half.” Lombard received the title of “Player of the Match” due to his resilience and go-getter attitude in last night’s match which helped him net the game-winning goal.
Real Central NJ’s second goal of the match came in the 55th minute when once again, Legget was knocked to the ground due to reckless behavior from Lehigh Valley. Sergio Aguinaga stepped up to take the free kick awarded to Real Central NJ. Aguinaga drove the ball towards the goal where Gavin Wigg soared up for a header, scoring the equalizer. In the following minutes of the match, Korzeniowski repeatedly had chances to net the go-ahead goal, but each attempt went too far wide or sailed over the crossbar.
As the end of the second period approached, both teams remained on edge to break the deadlock, especially Real Central NJ who had lost to Lehigh Valley United once already earlier in the season. Around the 80th minute, a corner kick took place in Lehigh’s territory where Aguinaga sent the ball flying towards a horde of players inside the box. Luckily, Lombard was lying in wait for a deflection and sent the ball right back to the goal, scoring RCNJ’s third and final goal of the match in the 81st minute. Fans and RCNJ’s bench shot to their feet in celebration as Lombard victoriously jumped in the air.
“Seeing that ball go in the back of the net was definitely amazing, as you could see from my reaction,” Lombard said, referring to his game-winning goal.
With approximately ten minutes left in the match, panic was evident in Lehigh Valley United as they scrambled to even the score. Real Central NJ tried its best to run the clock for the remainder of the game by carefully removing the ball from their territory and playing keep-away to ensure the third goal was the last. In the 92nd minute the whistle blew, awarding Real Central NJ with its first win against Lehigh Valley United, a deserving win at that.
The Real Central NJ Soccer men’s team will play its final home match of the season on Wednesday, June 29th against Reading United. RCNJ’s WPSL women will be playing at home on Sunday, June 26th against Torch FC. Sunday’s match will be themed “Hawaiian Shirt Night,” where fans are encouraged to show their spirit and attend wearing their favorite Hawaiian shirt.