Tyler Wise might not have opened the season the way he wanted to as he was held scoreless in two of Lyndhurst’s first three games. The lack of goals wasn’t a source of concern for him or his boys soccer head coach Emad Abu-Hakemah, but rather a delaying of the inevitable.
“He had a couple of really good shots in the game against Harrison and after that, I told him just keep doing this, there’s nothing to change,” Abu-Hakemah said. “Keep doing this, and I don’t care what team you’re playing against, you’re going to score goals.”
“It’s like they come in bunches,” said Wise. “Once you get in a rhythm in a game they just start coming.”
The goals started coming for Wise last week and now he seemingly can’t be stopped.
Wise broke his mini-slump with three goals and an assist in a Sept. 19 win over Secaucus. Two days later, Wise posted two goals and two assists as Lyndhurst defeated North Arlington, 5-2. Then, on Friday, Wise scored a career-high four goals in a victory over Weehawken.
Thanks to a trio of dominant performances, Wise has been selected as The Observer’s Athlete of the Week.
For the season, Wise has 11 goals and four assists in six games for the suddenly surging Golden Bears.
“The kid is talented, he’s skillful, he has the strength, he has the vision,” Abu-Hakemah said. “He can take the ball to the goal line and send it back, he can score from 20 yards, from 30 yards, from 5 yards, he can score on a header, he can volley it. He can do all of these things.”
“I kinda had an idea (the goals were coming). I knew my teammates and coaches had a lot of faith in me,” Wise said. “This week I hit a good stride and hopefully I can keep doing that.”
For Wise, this current hot streak has been all the more rewarding due to what he’s been through the past 12 months.
Just two games into last season, Wise broke his right foot on a non-contact injury. The fracture kept him sidelined for six months and while he was able to return to action for his Ironbound SC club team, Wise said he didn’t really feel back to normal on the field until the summer.
“It’s just one of those things where you’re happy and you’re more motivated than before because you’ve had it taken away so you know what it feels like to not have it as a part of your life,” said Wise. “You’re excited to play, be out there with your friends and just have fun. You don’t take the game for granted anymore.”
A striker for most of his career, Wise was a starting fullback as a freshman and sophomore for the Golden Bears with Enrique Mutsoli, who is now at NJIT, up top.
The graduation of Mutsoli, who scored 39 goals with 14 assists last season, left a considerable void on offense, but Wise didn’t feel pressure trying to replace his friend and former teammate.
“I’m really good friends with Enrique so I didn’t really feel that much pressure,” Wise said. “I always talk to him after all of the games and he always gives me advice. I don’t feel like I’m stepping into his shoes. I’m just trying to make my own mark. I’m just doing my best the same way he did his best.”
During their regular phone calls, Mutsoli and Wise discuss how Lyndhurst is doing. Mutsoli will also often have advice for Wise, including some valuable words when he went through his early scoring drought.
“(He told me) just to stay in the moment and just don’t worry about stats,” Wise said. “Just stay in the moment and keep playing hard and the goals are going to come. Everything’s going to happen.”
The goals have now come for Wise just like everyone expected and that’s bad news for everyone on Lyndhurst’s schedule.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)