For the past 14 years – ever since the Mustang Cup has been contested – Lynbrook boys head soccer coach Josh Berlin has been on the outside looking in as someone else at the base of the silver chalice.
“We came close about four years ago,” he said Saturday morning on the backfield of , their third time they would be in the finals for the cup. “This time we finally took it. But it’s a preseason tournament, it really means nothing other than getting us ready for the league season which starts Wednesday.”
The Owls finally claimed the cup thanks to a 2-0 win over Mineola on goals from Saha Gimadiev, who came up the middle to beat the Mustang defense, and captain Brendan Tedaldi, a third-year varsity player.
“He’s really stepping into some big shoes,” Berlin said of Tedaldi. “He’s leading and he is growing and he’s really starting to get his players around him to play well and getting himself into scoring position.”
Lynbrook graduated 9 players in 2011 and currently have 6 sophomores on the squad. They beat Oyster Bay 4-2 Friday to advance to the finals against Mineola.
“We’re really in a point where we’re not only retooling but we’re also growing every game we play. Between yesterday and today we learned a little bit more patient, they learned a little bit more about how to make their runs and how to communicate and we need to continue to do that.”
That doesn’t mean he’s above a little trash-taking on the coaching lines between himself and Mineola , commenting on each other’s play strategies as they develop.
“We banter a little bit here and there but at the end of the day we’re passionate about what we do,” Berlin said. “We’re both very passionate.”
Asked if losing their own cup stung, Pereira said “no, not really. Actually I think that making it to the finals this year… I guess if we couldn’t win, I’m glad that Lynbrook, who’s been here since the beginning did win. This is a great way for us to evaluate what we’re going to do during the season, see our guys play.”
The Mustangs are not only in a building year, but at the start of several as Pereira is casting his gaze far into the future.
“We lost a ton of goals, it’s going to be difficult to replace goals and that’s obviously our problem is that we can’t score goals,” he said. “We’re not going to let up a lot of goals either but we are not going to score a lot of goals.”
Mineola graduated eight of its starters, five of which are playing college soccer, and have on their roster 4 sophomores and a freshman starter. Only 3 Mustang players on the team have any varsity experience.
Whereas for the last couple of years Mineola was fighting for conference titles and battling deep into playoffs, this year the expectations are in a building mode and just seeking to get into the post season. The Mustangs beat Locust Valley in the tournament opener to advance to the finals. Oyster Bay and Locust Valley tied for third place in the tournament with a 2-2 score.
“This is about where we deserve to be,” Pereira said. “I think a realistic goal for us would be to try to squeeze into the playoffs in our league. This year I think our expectations are we’re looking to the future.”
The eighth grade squad is described as “solid” as Pereira is “looking two or 3 years down the road” at another deep playoff run.
Leading the Mineola squad will be sophomore infielder Daniel Pardo, the “most skilled player” on the team according to Pereira, who feels can make a lot happen but does not have the support on the team this year and sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Pereira.
“This year he’s trying to do it all himself,” coach Pereira said of Pardo. “It’s gong to be difficult but on the other hand he’s got a lot of individual talent. Sometimes he is going to have to just take it by himself and see if he can create some opportunities because I don’t think that if he waits for the ball we have the experience – at midfield especially – to build goals.”
Those goals will of course, not come easy, and the Mustangs are looking to score on free kicks, dead ball plays, restarts and get a few lucky bounces along the way.
“We’re not going to be able to really move the ball too well, we just don’t have that,” Pereira said. “If anyone’s going to score goals this year it’s going to be (Pardo), but on the other hand, he can’t do it by himself.”
With Island Trees expected to dominate the conference this year, Mineola’s playoff fate will be determined from their wins off of Valley Stream North, West Hempstead and Seaford, which opens the league portion of their schedule on September 13. There are a total of 12 games with the top 4 teams advancing to the playoffs.
“They need to know field awareness and that’s the thing is that even their soccer IQ is immature still,” Pereira said of his squad. “They don’t know where to be, they don’t know when to attack, when to defend, when to slide, when to overlap and those are things that we’ll work on.”
Goalkeeper Andrew Pereira, Pardo, Centerback Josh Lopes and senior midfielder Juan Valdes made the all-tournament team for the Mustangs while Lynbok players Matt Kurkemelis, Brendan Tedaldi, Sasha Gimadiev joined them in addition to MVP Ian Reid.1 2 F Lynbrook 1 1 2 Mineola 0 0 0