Matt Barresi has a big foot. The St. Anthony’s senior defenseman does not, however, have a big mouth.
“He’s a quiet player. We’re looking for him to take charge more, maybe get him to be a little more vocal,” Friars assistant coach Don Corrao said.
Barresi took charge — quietly — during a critical second-half sequence. Just before a free kick, he told midfielder Nick Gutekunst to run the same play that worked for them two years ago in a junior varsity contest. “It worked again. I even scored the same way,” Gutekunst, also a senior, said of his header off a well-placed long ball from the 50-yard line by Barresi with 30:45 left that gave St. Anthony’s a 1-0 victory over host Kellenberg on Thursday in a CHSAA game.
“We played them for the JV championship our sophomore year and I remembered the play,” said Barresi, who was outstanding on defense all afternoon, sending numerous booming kicks out of harm’s way to thwart the Firebirds’ attack. “Nick likes to run to the far post and I got it to him at the 6-yard line.”
It was Gutekunst’s first goal this season — and Barresi’s third assist — as the Friars (6-0-1 overall, 3-0 in CHSAA) reaped the reward of a more aggressive second half.
“We struggled in the first half and they outworked us,” said Corrao, who is running the team this season as head coach Gene Buonaiuto recovers from a back ailment. “We were more aggressive right from the opening sequence of the second half. Michael Algieri gave us a spark off the bench.”
Algieri, a shifty junior midfielder, nearly converted from close range and helped the Friars apply continuous possession for several minutes that set a second-half tone. The Firebirds (4-3-2, 2-1) had only a couple of scoring chances in the second half. “This is a narrow pitch and it takes getting used to,” Corrao said. “We like a little more room to maneuver.”
On the game-winning goal, Corrao called a play to take advantage of Barresi’s strong right leg. “Any time we have a set piece I think it’s a scoring opportunity,” Corrao said.
Barresi said he noticed that Kellenberg “was a little disorganized” on the play, followed an injury stoppage. “I have the ability to find players on long balls,” he said.
That’s why Gutekunst was confident when he broke free. “We know Matt will get it to us,” he said. “We were struggling to launch balls in the first half and we had moments when we let our foot off the gas.”
That’s when Barresi provided a roadblock to Kellenberg with his long-distance kicks from deep in his own end. “Of course you’d like to possess the ball,” he said, “but if there’s a problem, you just get it out of there.”
Soft words, loud message.