Golden Bears enjoy dramatic turnaround

Boys’ soccer team goes from winless to state playoff contender

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Lyndhurst boys’ soccer team has enjoyed a total transformation after a tough 0-6 start. Winners of four straight, the Golden Bears appear headed for the state tournament. Front row, from left, are Tim Alonso, Devon Cafaro and Chris Murphy. Back row, from left, are Tim Bonomo, Matt Lemke, Anthony Cardaci, Giuseppe Pollicino and head coach Rob Kost


By Jim Hague

The high school soccer season was only six games old, but it was already a nightmare for the Lyndhurst High School boys’ soccer team.
Second-year head coach Rob Kost was at wit’s end, not knowing what to do to stop the Golden Bears’ tough slide to start the season. Kost knew that he had a young team, having played a host of freshmen a year ago, but he thought that the Golden Bears would at least improve over last year. After six games, it didn’t appear that way.
“We started off slowly and we didn’t have our feet under us,” Kost said. “Injuries also hurt us. We had a young team that just needed to play with a little confidence.”
It was also time for some dramatic moves.
“We had to move some players around to shake things up a little,” Kost said.
It started with a very unselfish move. Junior J.P. Manzo, who began the season as one of the Golden Bears’ main offensive threats, volunteered to move to sweeper.
“He wanted to move back to help the team,” Kost said of Manzo. “He knew we were struggling and didn’t mind making the move. He understands the game and knows how to control the ball.”
Then sophomore Anthony Cardaci, who began the season as the Lyndhurst goalkeeper, was shifted from the net to center midfielder.
“I think he put a lot of pressure on himself, thinking he was the reason for our tough start,” Kost said. “He took the burden of our losses. But he’s enjoyed the move and he’s definitely shown he can handle it.”
The metamorphosis has been incredible. After losing their first six, the Golden Bears have won five of their last seven games, including the last four in a row. Lyndhurst toppled St. Mary’s of Rutherford (4-0), Weehawken (1-0), Hoboken (2-1) and a very impressive 5-0 win over Secaucus last Friday.
The Golden Bears aren’t exactly world beaters, but at 5-8 overall, they’re in a lot better shape than they were a few weeks ago.
“We’re doing some nice things and it’s shown by winning four games in a row,” Kost said. “Once we got the first win (over Saddle Brook, 2-1), there was a little bit of a sigh of relief. But you could see the tone of the team change. They had a lot more confidence.”
With Cardaci in the midfield, Kost turned to sophomore Matt Lemke to take over the goalkeeping duties. Lemke has responded with three shutouts in the past week.
“He’s doing a great job, but he’s still understanding the process,” Kost said. “He wanted to be the goalie and stepped right into the role. He’s done really well and Cardaci has been working with him. They really have a good relationship together.”
Manzo has been solid at sweeper.
“It really shows how much he’s dedicated to the team,” Kost said. “He’s one of the main reasons why we’ve turned this around.”
Junior Juan Gill is the stopper.
“He’s a nice physical presence for us,” Kost said of Gil.
Senior Devon Cafaro had been doing a solid job at defender, but was knocked out of the lineup with an injury last week. Sophomore Giuseppe Pollicino and junior Tom Alonso have been helping with the duties along the back line.
Cardaci has been a god-send since his move to the midfield. He scored the game-winning goal against Hoboken last week and has had three goals and one assist since making the move out of net.
Senior Mike Pelidis had been helping with the transition in the midfield, but he also suffered an injury last week, with juniors Kap Ki Kim and Erdi Demirbulaki and sophomores Mike Polito and Devin O’Donovan holding the fort in the midfield.
A pair of sophomores, Erik Marulanda and Anthony Giaquinto, takes care of the Golden Bears’ responsibilities up front. Marulanda has tallied four goals and two assists, while Giaquinto has been Lyndhurst’s leading scorer with four goals and four assists.
That 0-6 start is a slice of ancient history in Lyndhurst.
“They’re thinking differently now,” Kost said. “With the confidence now, they’re talking about making the state tournament. It’s definitely a better feeling, hearing them talk now. It’s not if we make the state tourney, but when. They have a lot more confidence in what they’re doing.”
It shows. Winning four straight will do that for a team.
And sure enough, the Golden Bears appear headed to a berth in the upcoming NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II state playoffs. It’s almost unconscionable, considering the state of the team just a few weeks ago.

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