Boys Soccer – 2016 Shore Conference Tournament Final Preview
Shore Conference Tournament Championship
Saturday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.
At Central Regional High School, Bayville
No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy vs. No. 2 Marlboro
CBA (19-1, 13-1 in Class A North)
Projected Starting Lineup
Head Coach: Tom Mulligan
SCT Championships: 9 (1 co-championship)
SCT Final Appearances: 11
Last Championship: 2015
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 16 Colts Neck 3-1, No. 8 Matawan 4-0, No. 5 Toms River North 6-2
Marlboro (17-1-1, 12-1-1 in Class A North)
Projected Starting Lineup
Head Coach: Dave Santos
SCT Championships: 1
SCT Final Appearances: 3
Last Championship: 2009
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 15 Pinelands 1-0, No. 7 Middletown North 4-0, No. 6 Freehold Township 2-0
Head-to-Head in 2016
The two Shore Conference Tournament finalists have been the clear top-two teams in the conference for a while now and Saturday’s showdown will likely determine which finishes the season as the No. 1 team at the Shore. While CBA has held that spot from the first day of the season, Marlboro has proven over the past 10 days that the two teams are virtual equals. The Mustangs beat CBA, 3-1, on Oct. 19 and while Colts were without top defender Scott Misson, Marlboro’s defense limited CBA’s attack to far fewer quality chances than the Colts are used to – a part of the game on which Misson would have made little impact.
For the third and final meeting between the two rivals, both sides are basically 100 percent healthy and ready to go. Matt Thorsheim went to the sideline for an extended period against Toms River North, but returned to the field in the second half and recorded a goal and an assist in the final four minutes. It was an exclamation point on an impressive performance by the Colts Monday night, when the top seed fired out of the gate with four unanswered goals in the first 25 minutes against the No. 5 Mariners. Toms River North scored a pair of unusual goals and nearly cut the lead to one goal on multiple occasions, but CBA was never really in danger of losing the game.
While CBA erupted early in its semifinal win, Marlboro set a methodical pace and wore Freehold Township down in the first game of the semifinal double-header on Thursday. The Mustangs knocked the ball around in the back, drew the Patriots forward up and eventually started advancing for some scoring opportunities. Steven Karp scored to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead shortly before halftime and after dodging one bullet when defender Justin Goldstein cleared the ball off the line, P.J. Ringel tacked on a goal late to seal the win.
The wins by CBA and Marlboro both underscore what each of the teams does well. CBA has too many good finishers for most teams to account for and got six goals from five different sources on Thursday night. Marlboro, on the other hand, is a patient, senior-heavy team that is ultra-organized and becoming harder and harder to score upon with each passing week. As much as the two teams are likened to one another, there is a good deal of contrast in what each does well.
There is also some recent Shore Conference history between the two teams that is worth mentioning. Marlboro won its first and only Shore Conference Tournament championship in 2009 by beating CBA, 2-1. Marlboro was the No. 1 seed that season and had split the regular-season series with CBA, with the Colts winning the second meeting. In the 2009 final, Marlboro scored twice during a nine-minute span late in the second half to rally from a 1-0 deficit and not only win its first ever SCT title, but also hand CBA its only loss in 10 prior trips to the conference title game.
Sometimes, a third meeting between teams in a postseason setting can be a little tired. This matchup does not suffer from that element. The two regular-season meetings were very competitive and both games could have gone either way based on the run of play. In the first game, CBA outshot Marlboro, 16-4, but P.J. Ringel had arguably the best chance of regulation when he chipped a breakaway just wide of the far post – a goal that likely would have won the game and the A North title for Marlboro. In the second meeting, CBA gave up two goals on headers off set pieces with its central defender and best player in the air (Misson) relegated to the bench. While Marlboro slowed down CBA’s attack in that game, CBA also did a good job against Marlboro’s attack outside of the two header goals.
Both of these teams prefer to play heavy in the midfield in order to encourage buildup, but CBA is more of an attack-minded team, sometimes at the behest of its head coach. If CBA struggles, it is usually because they play more direct than they are designed to operate. The Mustangs are strong enough in the back and play with enough presence in the midfield to force the Colts to think for an extra beat about where to go with the next pass. When it has the ball, looks to hold the ball and look for opportunities to find Ringel in space or to work the ball to Karp on the outside for a chance to cross the ball into the box.
An x-factor in the game Saturday night is goalkeeping. Marlboro’s James Weinberg is widely regarded by Shore coaches as the best keeper in the conference and he has returned to form lately after missing an extended period of time due to a concussion. The Mustangs have not allowed a goal in three tournament games, and while the defense deserves a lot of the credit, Weinberg has come up with at least one standout save in each win. CBA’s Aeden Boriotti is also a quality keeper, but he hasn’t been tested as much and he is coming off a semifinal game in which he let two balls get through him. He also responded with two big saves to preserve the two-goal lead. With as good as both teams are, one of the keepers is going to have to make a save that essentially wins the game.
There was a time when it was pertinent to ask how a team that is used to playing on grass will look on turf, but with it being so commonplace in travel and academy soccer, it’s no longer an issue. In fact, both of these teams – particularly CBA – look cleaner and faster on the artificial surface and it should actually contribute to the quality of the game.
The last factor to consider is the mental state of the two teams after Marlboro beat CBA to end the Colts’ bid for a perfect season. While the Mustangs now enter the game knowing they are CBA’s equal and capable of winning a Shore Conference title, CBA also benefits from the lessons it learned from the loss. If CBA had beaten Marlboro twice in two close games, it might have given the Mustangs an edge in intensity, but that figures to be a wash with CBA out for revenge. Saturday’s game will feature two talented, cohesive, motivated teams that know one another well and are looking to elevate great seasons into special ones. The Pick: CBA, 2-1 in overtime