Scores crucial goal in 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When the high school soccer season began in early August, Edgar Najarro was simply a backup goalkeeper to Kearny High School’s celebrated net minder Sebastian Ferreira, one of the best goalies in the entire state.
Najarro knew that there wasn’t going to be much playing time in net with the Kardinals.
“I was a goalie on the club level this summer, but I’ve always been a field player,” Najarro explained. “I was the leading goal scorer on the JV (junior varsity) team the last two years. I just wanted to get a chance to play.”
Two weeks ago, Najarro got a chance to play on the forward line as a reserve.
Last week, Najarro scored a huge goal in overtime, giving the Kardinals a tough 3-2 victory over North Bergen. Last Saturday, the Kardinals faced neighboring rival Harrison at Red Bull Arena, with approximately 5,000 avid soccer fans in attendance.
Najarro was hoping to make his mark.
“I woke up in the morning and realized that I had to go out there and prove myself, if I got a chance to play,” Najarro said.
Najarro did just that. Inserted into the game after halftime, Najarro got himself in perfect position to score a gigantic goal.
“I just put him in the game,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “And he made a beautiful chip to the goal from 20 yards out. It was as beautiful of a goal as you’re going to see.”
On his first touch of the game, Najarro got his foot on the ball and fired it.
“Matthew Neto had the ball, but he just ran out of space, so I got it,” Najarro said. “I hit it well and it went to the top left corner of the net.”
Najarro’s goal in the 53rd minute snapped a 1-1 tie and propelled Kearny to a 3-1 victory in the showdown of the area’s top two clubs.
It was the first time that the two teams had played in Red Bull Arena in three years. Kearny won that game as well by a 2-1 score.
Galka was not pleased with his team at halftime with the game deadlocked.
“I came off a little upset at half,” Galka said. “We were a little outnumbered in the midfield and they had too much possession of the ball. So we talked about it and made some adjustments. We were able to defend better and counter their play. We were able to get more control of the ball. We picked our game up in the second half.”
Ferreira was outstanding in net for the Kards. He made nine saves, several of which were sprawling stops.
“He was big all game for us, stopping shots from a long distance,” Galka said. “He made some tremendous saves to keep us in it. He showed good poise, because it was a back and forth game.”
Daniel Vicente, who returned to the Kearny program this season, got the Kardinals going with an early goal in just the second minute of the game. It looked like Kearny was ready to run the Blue Tide right out of Red Bull Arena.
But Christian Restrepo’s header in the 20th minute tied the game for Harrison, which is the way the game stayed through halftime.
It was soon to be Najarro time.
“It meant a lot to me that my mom (Diane) and dad (Rolando) were there to see it,” Najarro said. “I also have the game on tape, too. I’ve scored some big goals, like the North Bergen one, but not quite as big as this one. Especially on that stage, in front of all those people.” And against the dreaded rival, who had a tough week. Everyone in Harrison was concerned about the health and well being of former Harrison All-State great Modou Sowe, who collapsed during a Ramapo College game last week and was rushed to a hospital. Sowe was later released after it was learned he was suffering from the ill effects of a concussion, but there was a ton of concern for Sowe, even at the game Saturday.
Najarro made sure that it was going to be a frightful Saturday afternoon for the Blue Tide.
“It was definitely the experience of a lifetime,” Najarro said. “From the minute we got off the bus to the minute we went back home, everything was professional. I’m absolutely going to remember it for the rest of my life.”
Arturo Sanchez capped the scoring with a goal with about seven minutes left to play, giving Kearny the twogoal advantage.
“Anytime you play at Red Bull Arena, it’s a thrill,” Galka said. “I know both teams like playing there and the towns like it as well. There was great fan support for both teams. The faculty, administration, students, local fans, you name it, they were there. It was a great atmosphere and a great experience for the kids.”
Galka’s team now owns a state ranking (No. 16 overall) and an undefeated mark at 6-0-2, with ties against St. Peter’s Prep and Union.
“We’re playing well,” Galka said. “We just got some players back. (Marcelo) Matta just got back from a concussion. He was big for us in the second half. He only had two days of practice. Alexi Velasquez was also injured and couldn’t practice all week, but he played well. I think we’re finding our way.”
Just like the former goalie found the net – and created a memory of a lifetime.
The Kearny girls completed the sweep of the doubleheader, handling the Harrison girls in easy fashion, 6-0.