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(Central New Jersey) Wednesday, May 23, 2024—Real Central NJ (RCNJ) beat Lehigh Valley United Rush (LVU) 1-0 in their home opener at Rider University in front of a packed house, where they drew their first clean sheet. The families and players from Next Level SA, our youth affiliate club, turned out and created a fantastic match environment. The RCNJ men suffocated LVU with their attacking prowess and were able to shut down their offense completely. The stadium was electric, as Next Level Soccer Academy families attended in force.

A large group of NLSA kids posed for a picture.
Photo Credit: Lukas Courtney


  • RCNJ﹘Matthew Lynch (Hugo Cakurda) 13th minute: Cakurda offered a pass up the middle of the field, and Lynch took a touch and drove a shot through the back of the net. RCNJ 1, LHU 0


The player of the match was midfielder Elias Betancourt. 

“He was fantastic,” said Coach Nicholas LaBrocca when asked about Betancourt. “With the amount of ground he covered, he was able to do everything we asked of him. Ran balls, connected passes for us, and then, as the game progressed, he was able to get into the attack and make a big difference for us.”

After quite a slow first ten minutes of the game, Real Central NJ struck first with a goal in the thirteenth minute. After a beautiful, driven pass up the middle of the field from Hugo Cakurda, Matthew Lynch took a touch to the inside, squared up the shot, and ripped one into the back of the net to put RCNJ up 1-0. 

Real Central NJ continued their aggression early as Hugo Cakurda worked his way around the LVU back line and got a good look on goal, which ended up just high of the goal. The RCNJ attack was promising early on. 

The first real look at the Lehigh Valley United attack came in the thirtieth minute when they had a shot on target from within the box that just barely missed the goal to the left.

LVU looked more comfortable late in the first half as they went right back at RCNJ in the thirty-fifth. They returned with a shot from a few yards outside the eighteen-yard box that went just wide. 

But RCNJ continued their aggressive play style, and the half ended with two very nice attacks: one in the forty-first minute, which ended in a shot just shy of the near post by Hugo Cakurda, and the other with a nice look from Elias Betancourt just outside the penalty zone in stoppage time. 

To open the second half, Real Central NJ got right back to it. They mounted a couple of quick attacks in the fifty-first and fifty-fourth, which resulted in a saved shot from Kodie Sarkodie and a half-volley attempt that slightly missed the mark from Curt Calov. 

Not shortly after, RCNJ made three quality runs within five minutes. Curt Calov had opportunities in the sixty-second and sixty-sixth; however, he could not capitalize on either. Barely a minute after Cavlov’s second attempt, RCNJ drew a corner, which prompted a Kodie Sarkodie header, which was off the mark. 

Lehigh Valley United started to fight back in the sixty-ninth as they worked their way into RCNJ's backline and put a shot on goal that was saved by Lukas Burns, his first of the game. And in the seventy-fifth minute, they were awarded a free kick, which bounced off the crossbar. 

In the seventy-sixth minute, Real Central NJ had the opportunity to seal the game when the referees awarded Elias Betancourt a penalty shot; however, he was unable to put it in the back of the net. Five minutes later,  Cole Sotack made an unfavorable tackle and received his second yellow card, leading RCNJ to play a man down, giving LHU their chance. 

“If you're working together and covering your teammate, and you're there to support your teammate, you can be down two or three more players,” Coach LaBrocca added regarding going down a man. “As long as you're working hard together, a lot of problems don't present themselves.” 

Lehigh Valley United used this advantage to pressure RCNJ. In the eighty-fourth minute, they put two shots on target. The first was a shot from inside the box that Burns saved, and the second deflected off the post. 

They continued to attack RCNJ's defensive line until stoppage time when a Real Central NJ counter-attack ended their momentum and kept the game tied at 1-0. 

“Great team performance,” Coach LaBrocca said. “The guys worked fantastically together and covered each other, right, wrong, and indifferent. You can't ask for more than that.”

The RCNJ Women play next against the Delaware Ospreys at home on Friday, May 24, 2024, at Ben Cohen Field at Rider University. Purchase Match-day tickets and season passes on the Real Central NJ Soccer website.

Then, the next men’s home match will be on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, when they take on Ocean City Nor’Easters. Tickets are available on the Real Central NJ website.



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