Boys Soccer – Completo, Haldane Lead Long Branch Comeback Over Freehold Twp.
LONG BRANCH - Brian Completo has been one of the Shore's top fullbacks since last season, even though he considers himself a natural forward.
When his Long Branch team needs him to be a scorer, he has proven he can be one of the Shore's best at that too.
Completo scored a momentum-shifting goal in the 70th minute Monday against Freehold Township off a pass from classmate Tyler Haldane and Haldane scored 37 seconds later to complete a swift comeback in a 2-1 Green Wave win over the Patriots.
During its run to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship game a year ago, Long Branch - the No. 4 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - erased one-goal second-half deficits in road wins over both Freehold Township and Marlboro. Monday's game bore similarities to both of those wins, during which the Green Wave established itself as a team that is always a threat to come back. On Monday, they cemented that reputation.
"Just being in the state tournament last year was crazy to think about because it was my first time," Completo said. "We didn't really expect to do much, we just gave it our all. We're a team with a lot of heart so you're never going to see us giving up in bad moments."
Just as he did a year ago in the first-round state playoff game between the two Class A North rivals, Freehold Township senior Zach Orrico broke the ice with the game's first goal. On Monday, Orrico positioned himself for a rebound off a shot by junior J.T. Gold and knocked it into the net in the 52nd minute.
"We thought we did well containing him," Long Branch coach Adrian Castro said of Orrico, who scored 17 goals during his Player-of-the-Year season in 2019. "It was a rebound and he was right there. He is that type of kid who is just around. The ball finds him and he knows what to do."
Just as Orrico did in the 52nd, Completo made a callback to last year later in the half. The Long Branch senior made a push forward and played the ball to Haldane on his right. Haldane played Completo toward the right corner and Completo beat Freehold Township goalkeeper John Wilhelm with a touch toward the end-line.
"I've been training with my travel team up top and then I come here and play defense," Completo said. "I guess my attacker instincts just kicked in."
"When we're down, we have the plan," Castro said. "Brian is a striker as well, and we don't care if we lose 1-0 vs. 2-0. We'll risk moving him up top even though he is one of our best defenders. He went up there and I think he touched the ball twice and scored."
Completo got to the ball and fired a shot from the right angle at an empty net and connected for the equalizer.
"I cherished the goal against Marlboro I scored in the state tournament for so long," Completo said. "I never had an opportunity like that before so to have something similar to that situation today is really meaningful."
Long Branch immediately won the ball back and senior Jason Laviola got it down to the left corner. He crossed the ball to the front of the goal, where Haldane finished it for the game-winning goal with exactly 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
"We were working on crosses and finishing in practice yesterday and I missed the first one and I went back and got a header and put it in," Haldane said. "I thought, "I may as well go out and do that again.' I saw my friend Jay go down the line, he saw me and it was just a connection. We've been playing together for four years - more like 12, actually, if you count before high school."
Haldane gave the Green Wave a jolt off the bench and Long Branch will have continue to tap into its depth for the next two games at No. 5 Freehold Township and against No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy. Junior forward Lucas Da Costa drew a red card in the final minute Monday and will be required to sit out for both games.
"They know that other guys are going to have to step up," Castro said of his players. "Lucas started off strong with four goals in the first three games and teams are starting to key in on him, which is normal. But (scoring) isn't coming from one spot so team's can't just key in on one guy, so I think we're a little less predictable."
Even without ideal circumstances for the next two games against two of the Shore's top teams, the Green Wave players are happy to get the next game. If they can take advantage by winning their way to the top of the Class A North standings, all the better in their minds.
"With how the pandemic is, we never know if we're going to play CBA, or the game on Wednesday," said Completo, whose team had their first two games of the season vs. CBA postponed because of confirmed coronavirus cases at CBA in late September. "Whether it's tomorrow or in the next 10 minutes, there could be a case (of the virus) and we get shut down. We just take it game-by-game and give it our all no matter if there is a game the next day."