Defender Quintos becomes hero with golden goal
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Andrew Quintos is a defender on the Kearny High School boys’ soccer team. He knows defenders rarely grab the headlines, because they rarely score goals.
However, Quintos has been recently finding himself in a position to put the ball in the net.
He scored three goals in a recent win against Memorial and had two more goals in a victory over Belleville. In fact, Quintos has tallied an astounding seven goals this season.
But none bigger than the one Quintos knocked home Sunday afternoon. In fact, it’s a goal that Quintos will hold dearly for the rest of his life.
Quintos got the ball off a mad scramble in the second overtime of the Hudson County Tournament semifinal against neighboring rival Harrison Sunday afternoon at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium and somehow knocked it home, giving the Kardinals a thrilling 2-1 victory.
With the win, undefeated Kearny (13-0-2) advanced to Sunday’s county tournament finale to face North Bergen, which upset St. Peter’s Prep, 1-0, in the other semifinal held at Harrison High School.
Quintos was asked to describe the game-winning play.
“The ball came right in front of me,” Quintos said. “I got there first before a Harrison defender could get to it. It was just my instinct. I had to get there.”
“There had to be about 19 or 20 players in the box,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “The ball was bouncing back and forth.”
The winning play was set up by a corner kick from Calvin Carbajal, but was then touched about seven or eight times by players on both teams before it bounced back to Quintos.
“He just has a knack to get to the bouncing ball,” Galka said. “He somehow gets to it. He scored two the same way against Belleville. As our center back, he goes up for free kicks. He’s been getting goals from the back. It’s amazing.”
“Of course, it’s as big as it gets,” Quintos said. “I knew that the goal ended the game. There was a sense of relief and joy. We put a lot of hard work into it. It feels good to get to the finals. Last year, we were disappointed, because we didn’t win anything. This year, we have a chance to go far, so it makes winning important.”
Quintos knows the importance of the goal, because he gave Kearny its second win of the season against the rival Blue Tide. Kearny has never defeated Harrison twice in one year before. The previous win came at Red Bull Arena by a 3-1 decision Sept. 27.
“It’s something that gets built up for years,” Quintos said. “It feels great. To be honest, I couldn’t even have something like this in my thoughts. I’ll never forget it.”
Galka knew that Harrison was going to be a tough out, considering the two teams played a spirited game less than a month ago.
“They had a little bit more of a motivation, considering we won the first time, so there was a revenge factor,” Galka said. “So the way we looked at it, we had to play better than them. They were ready and put the pressure on us. We were up against it.”
The Kards were also without top ball distributor Marcello Matta, who was out with a groin injury.
Harrison head coach Mike Rusek thought that his team had a chance against the Kards this time around.
“I thought we battled hard with them at Red Bull Arena,” Rusek said. “We thought we could go in there Sunday and battle with them. I told our kids that it was our county championship (the Blue Tide were the defending champs) and we had to go there to defend our title. We had to go there and play like champions, which we did.”
Rusek said that it was a tough situation for his team to be in.
“I went back as far as I could and couldn’t find another time where Kearny beat Harrison twice in one year,” Rusek said. “It’s a different year. They got us twice.”
The Kardinals took the lead in the early going, when Carbajal scored in the eighth minute off a fine pass from Alexi Velasquez.
“Scoring early sometimes hurts,” Galka said. “You tend to get a lackadaisical feeling and let up. It might be easier not to score early. We had a long way to go in the game.” Midway through the second half, the Blue Tide tied the score on a goal by freshman Ney Moreno.
“It was a nice goal,” Galka said. “It really got some momentum going for them. We were defending pretty well, but it was a matter of survival.”
“We were pushing for a second goal,” Rusek said. “We played well in the second half. The wind was pretty strong and it played a factor, because we had the wind at our backs in the second half.”
With five minutes to go in regulation, the Blue Tide thought they had the game winner. Ali Lakhrif chipped one that eluded Kearny standout goalkeeper Sebastian Ferreira and appeared headed toward the goal.
“Ali chipped one from the 18 (yard line) and the ball hit the crossbar, the corner of the goal post and slid off to the side,” Rusek said. “That was tough.”
Kearny also had a chance to win the game, but Carbajal plunked one off the crossbar as well, sending the game to the overtime, eventually giving Quintos the golden opportunity to be a golden hero with a golden goal, a score of a lifetime.
“Unfortunately, when you lose on a goal like that, everything just stops,” Rusek said. “We started to think about penalty kicks already. The mind starts prepping for things like that. Then, suddenly, it’s over. You’re in shock, because you were not prepping for that. You stand there, like ‘What just happened?’ But that’s soccer.”
The Blue Tide dropped to 13-3 on the season, with two of the three setbacks to the local rivals and the other coming at the hands of Princeton.
Both teams will be forces to be reckoned with in the upcoming NJSIAA state tournament – Kearny in North Jersey Section 1, Group IV and Harrison in North 2, Group I.
“I told our kids that the only month where you have to worry about being undefeated is November,” Rusek said. “This was a good experience for us for the state tournament.”
The Kardinals have a county title to be won, facing North Bergen somewhere this weekend. The Kards defeated North Bergen, 2-1, in overtime a few weeks ago.
“We haven’t won in a while,” Galka said of the county tournament title. “We’re looking at trying to get it back again.”
As for the unbeaten mark this late in the season?
“We don’t mention it and certainly don’t talk about it,” Galka said.
Such are the superstitions of soccer.