Najarro’s 2-goal spurt the difference for Kards, first-ever repeat champs
In the seven-year history of the Hudson County Soccer Tournament, there has never been a repeat champion.
That is, until now.
And that’s because the Kardinals beat Union City, 3-2, for the county crown Saturday afternoon at Harrison High School to become the first team ever to repeat as county champs and in doing so, also beat Union City for the third time this season.
Tied at 1 going into halftime, Kards Head Coach Bill Galka says he knew he was going to need more out of his team than the one goal Kenny Santos scored in the first half.
So the veteran coach said he was certain one of his go-to guys, sophomore John Najarro, would come through in the second half.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Najarro scored two goals in under 3 minutes to kick off the second half.
Najarro’s first goal came on a failed clearing attempt in the game’s 43rd minute when Union City’s goalie Bruno Canteros was unable to handle the ball properly. When that happened, the net was wide open for Najarro, who was able to fire the ball into a corner to give the Kards a 2-1 lead.
Then, just two minutes later, from 30-plus yards away, Najarro scored his second goal of the game, one that barely found its way under the crossbar, to give the Kards a lead they would not relinquish.
At that point, Galka says he was confident his team’s two-goal lead would eventually increase.
“But that’s not how it happened,” Galka said. “We were pretty comfortable up 3-1. I was thinking we’d soon be up 4-1, but they rebounded nicely to make the score 3-2. Fortunately, that was it.”
Galka says he is extremely proud of how well his team handled having just a one-goal lead late in the second half. After all, he was down two starters — one to injury [Calvin Carbajal] and one to a red card that resulted from a double-yellow card issued after Union City cut the Kards’ lead to 3-2.
“When they scored their second goal, we thought they may have fouled our goalie Oscar [Alvarado],” Galka said of the goalie who made one save in the win. “At the time, there was so much mayhem going on, we weren’t sure what was going on. The game will be on TV later this week — Verizon FiOS was there to cover it — so I’ll get a sense of what really happened after that goal.
“But with a 3-2 lead, we handled ourselves really well and we hung on to win it. I’m really proud of our guys — how we came together without two starters.”
Galka says he was even more excited to hold on for the regulation win because if Union City had tied the game by the end of regulation, there was no overtime — the game instead would have gone directly to penalty kicks.
“Not the best way to decide a [championship] game for sure,” Galka said.
Meanwhile, he also says the crowd played an important part in the county championship, his and the team’s fourth overall.
“There was such an intensity to the game,” he said. “It had a state-final feel to it all. They brought a lot of supporters to the game and we had a great number of supporters there, too. They were loud and their chanting was great. It was very emotional.”
Overall, as the Kards now prepare for a state-tournament run, Galka says he couldn’t have asked for much more from his short-handed squad.
“It was just a really good, solid performance,” he said. “We played a grounded second half. And these guys — they really deserve this.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.