Kardinals, Blue Tide to meet again in Hudson semifinals

The Hudson County Boys Soccer Tournament is in its 10th year this year.

And for the eighth time since the inception of the tourney in 2008, long-standing rivals Harrison and Kearny will meet.

And for the second straight year, the two teams will meet in the semifinal round and that match – for some ungodly reason – will be played at the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Complex on Cochrane Field in Jersey City Thursday night at 7 p.m.

Regardless of the location, it’s a showdown that all soccer fans clamor for.

The two teams met in the Harrison Soccer Showdown at Red Bull Arena Sept. 15, with the Kardinals coming away with a 3-1 victory.

“It’s always exciting to play Harrison,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “I know the kids are looking forward to it. It’s always great to play against our rival. The difference now is that it’s in a tournament situation.”

“Meeting up with Kearny is now becoming a yearly thing,” said Harrison head coach Mike Rusek, a Kearny grad and former standout player for the Kardinals. “We’ve played eight times now and a lot of those times could have been in the finals. Before the season, we tell the kids that there are four championships that we can win. If they want to be a great Harrison team, then they should win all four.”
The four championships are the regular season league title, the county, the NJSIAA state sectional and overall state title.

Rusek said that the Blue Tide (13-2) had lost only twice all season – to NJIC rival Dwight-Englewood and to Kearny.

“Now we have a chance to get back at both of them,” Rusek said.

The Blue Tide advanced in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals with a solid 3-0 victory over previously undefeated Ferris Saturday morning in Jersey City.

Rusek said that he didn’t have to remind his team that Ferris was indeed 10-0 before their meeting.

“It’s funny, because everything is found out by the kids before you have to tell them,” Rusek said. “We knew that they had a nice team. That was discussed. But the kids already knew their record. We felt we should have been the No. 4 seed (Ferris was No. 4 and Harrison No. 5), so that was discussed.”

Omar Sowe is the main Blue Tide performer to watch. He’s scored 17 goals and had 14 assists for the county finalist squad.

The Kardinals (12-1-1) are vying to repeat as Hudson County Tourney champions. They defeated St. Peter’s Prep in last year’s title game before the NJSIAA Group IV state tournament began. The Kards won the state championship as well last year.

Although the Kards were hurt severely by graduation as well as the unexpected loss of state Player of the Year Jose Escandon, who returned with his family to their native Ecuador, they still managed to play at a top level, thanks to players like Ryan Silva and Rodrigo Vareja.

Silva has played up to his expectations, scoring 18 goals and adding 11 assists. Silva, who had three goals and two assists in the 10-0 win over Bayonne in the quarterfinals of the Hudson tourney, now has 18 goals for the season.

And Vareja is better than last year. He’s a year older, more mature, and is able to handle the striker role, scoring 17 goals thus far after finding the net just twice as a junior. Vareja scored twice Saturday in the lopsided win over Bayonne. His production has been a shocker and has helped Galka to survive without a player like Escondon.

“It’s all about these kids finding their roles,” Galka said. “We’ve been tinkering with our lineup all season.”I think this gave us time for the players to understand their roles. I think the whole team has to function better. Things are on a positive right now. I’m happy with the way the kids have been playing.”

Rusek is also happy with the way that adapted to difficult places like Denver and Seattle and still came away with victories.

“We’re real happy to be where we are right now,” Rusek said. “Compared to where we were a month ago, it’s a nice change. I guess it takes a while to find the right mix. I’d like to have everything all set up by the time of the state tournament.”

Rusek is glad to have other players contributing, like Jairo Lima and Allan Melo, who have seven goals each.

“We can’t just be the Omar Sowe show,” Rusek said. “He’s fabulous, for sure, but he can’t be the only one scoring. Jairo is a newcomer to us who has scored almost all of his goals in October. Melo was on the JV team last year, but he’s stepped up.”

So has Sowe’s little brother, sophomore Mustapha, who has six goals.

“We lost two games in a week and since then, we haven’t lost,” said Rusek, alluding to the Kearny and Dwight-Englewood losses. When we played Kearny a month ago, we didn’t know what we were doing. We’ve come a long way since then. We’re hungry now for a good result against Kearny. But I feel better about the way we’re playing.”

Both coaches expressed dismay about the game being played in Jersey City.

“In my opinion, the game being played there loses 1,000 people who would have come if it was played in Kearny,” Rusek said.

“It takes a little bit of the excitement away,” Galka said. “If it were local, more people would come out. Playing the game at Caven certainly dampens the excitement of it.”

But it’s still Kearny vs. Harrison once again with a berth in the county final on the line. What’s to say this one is a barn burner?



Kearny midfielder Max Murillo (6) tries to secure the ball against Harrison defender Ederson LaTorre (21) in their latest get together at Red Bull Arena last month. Photo by Jim Hague


Kearny forward Ryan Silva (9) shows a little of the form that has made him a prolific goal scorer with 18 goals and 11 assists from his forward slot. Photo by Jim Hague




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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”