FREEHOLD TWP. - Marlboro boys soccer coach Dave Santos has accepted that his teams have had a tendency to start slow and come on strong in October and in many ways, he thinks this year's senior-laden team will round into form in similar fashion.

In the meantime, though, the Mustangs are winning games while working out the kinks and its senior goalkeeper is a big reason why.

Senior goalkeeper James Weinberg gave up a rare goal Wednesday against Freehold Township, but it came on a penalty kick in the 69th minute and it was not enough for the Patriots to beat the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Weinberg saved six shots, seniors Steven Karp and Jared Markowitz scored second-half goals and the Mustangs beat the No. 9 Patriots, 2-1.

Marlboro senior Josh Grun assisted Marlboro's first goal of the game. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We typically start slow because what we're trying to do, I hope, is play good soccer and all get on the same page, and that takes a while," Santos said. "We could easily have a slow start if it wasn't for James. Our record is 5-1 in large part because of him. He's allowing us to enjoy victories as we grow as a team."

"We're a possession team - we're based on possession and working from the back," Weinberg said. "Today, you probably saw some glimpses of it, but we're not possessing all the way through to the forwards. We're losing the ball in the final third or making that bad pass right at the end. It's something that's going to come along by the end of the season and I think right now, we're in a good place at 5-1 and we're only going to get better."

Weinberg made three saves in each half and his first-half performance helped get the Mustangs to halftime scoreless with Freehold Township. Marlboro possessed the ball for the majority of the first half, but the Patriots had the more dangerous chances on the goal.

"I felt in the first half, we possessed more," Karp said. "They came out strong in the second half but I definitely felt like as the second half went on, their defense started to get tired and that's when we started to get chances and that's how I broke through."

The Mustangs had to fend off the Patriots for the early part of the second half, including a shot that Weinberg deflected off the crossbar. The Mustangs finally broke through in the 54th minute. Senior center midfielder Josh Grun played the ball in the air toward the left flag and Karp tracked it down before striking a far-post shot from 12 yards to open the scoring.

"The first ten minutes of the (second) half, they were just in our grill the whole time," Santos said. "We made a couple of substitutions and we got our center midfielder (Grun) in the game a little bit more. We seemed to control the game for a 10 or 15-minute period and that's when the tide turned."

Marlboro added an insurance goal in the 65th, when Markowitz came away with a long ball played in by sophomore Jaden Strumaier, beat the last defender, and poked the ball past Freehold Township goalkeeper Josh Nastarowicz.

Freehold Township clawed back into the game thanks to a handball in the penalty box, which led to a penalty kick by senior Kyle Trainor, who drilled a shot to the left side netting - just out of the reach of a diving Weinberg. The Marlboro keeper made one more save over the final 11 minutes to nail down the win.

The goal Weinberg allowed Wednesday was the third in six games so far this season, with four of the six Marlboro games ending with the score 1-0. The Mustangs are 3-1 in those games.

"I like to think I've kept us in some games this year, but it's not just me," Weinberg said. "When we have a defensive breakdown, I try to pick up my defenders and when I get caught off my line, my defense is there, which happened a couple of times today."