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10 things to know about Long Island boys soccer playoffs

Brentwood head coach Ron Eden speaks to his

Brentwood head coach Ron Eden speaks to his players during halftime of a Suffolk boys soccer game against Sachem North on Sept. 11 in Brentwood. Credit: Dawn McCormick

1. How good is Brentwood?

The short answer is very good. But there are some questions about the defending (2019) state AA champs. Newsday’s No. 1 boys soccer team has battled some injuries, but coach Ron Eden was pleased with the way his reserves came through during the late-season stretch. "I feel like we have good depth now," he said. "We actually came out a little stronger and have four or five guys who can come off the bench." Brentwood (15-1) ran through League I with a perfect 14-0 mark, but lost, 1-0, to Connetquot — now a No. 8 seed — on Sept. 3. David Akpan led Long Island with 25 goals, but Brentwood isn’t a one-man show. Juan Gomez missed some time with an injury, yet still had 14 goals. "We’re such a different team when he plays," Eden said. The 26th-year head coach knows Suffolk AA is loaded and anything can happen in the postseason. "Soccer is a strange game — the weather, the wind, penalty kicks," he said. "At the end, there’s only going to be one man standing. . . . You need to stay healthy and have a little luck."

2. Who else can contend in Suffolk AA?

Remember, there were no Long Island championships last season in soccer because of COVID-19. Commack is the defending Suffolk AA champs and beat Brentwood in the AA semifinals during this spring’s truncated season. The No. 3 Cougars have one of the top players on Long Island in senior Tommy Wagner (9 goals), who was utilized all over the field this season by coach Dave Moran. Commack (12-4) grinded its way to the Suffolk League II title. Moran, who used at least 20 players a game (and four times this season 30), was quick to point out that six of the eight teams in his league qualified for the postseason. "It’s a complete tossup," Moran said. "It’s not always about the best teams advancing. Sometimes, it comes down to the matchups." West Islip (13-2-1) is the No. 2 seed, the League III champs, and a tough out. But don’t look past No. 4 Smithtown East (12-3-1) nor No. 5 Huntington (12-3-1). One last tidbit: the winner of the No. 8 Connetquot (9-5-2) versus No. 9 Centereach (9-4-3) could be a dangerous test for Brentwood, which faces a pesky No. 16 Pat-Med (6-7-3) in its opener.

3. How deep is Suffolk Class A?

There’s No. 1 Comsewogue (13-1-1), No. 2 Amityville (13-1-1), and No. 3 Shoreham-Wading River (12-1-1) which all won their respective league titles. Plus, don’t forget No. 4 Half Hollow Hills West (12-3-1) and Harborfields (8-4-1), which finished second behind Amityville in League V. Yet, the defending Class A champs drew the No. 8 seed. "This is the deepest Class A playoffs I have ever seen," Amityville coach Mike Abbondondolo said. "All four quarterfinal games will be super competitive. Every single game is going to be tough."

4. Suffolk’s studs.

Let’s take a look at a few players in Suffolk who could make some noise in the playoffs:

Edwin Acosta, No. 2 Amityville (Class A)

Everyone knows about Juan Ponce, Bryce Cherry, and Roberth Perez, but Acosta is a glue guy in the middle who comes up big in pressure-packed moments. The crafty center midfielder has a high soccer IQ, and looks to help Amityville, which is in search of its first Suffolk crown since 2018 when it also captured a state title.

Carlos Berrios, No. 1 Babylon (Class B)

The defender anchors the defending Suffolk B champs’ backline. Coach Dennis McGovern called him: "An absolute animal for us," after a 2-0 win against Southampton on Oct. 18. If the Panthers (14-2) hope to repeat, Berrios needs to continue his strong play.

Aiden Friel, No. 8 Connetquot (Class AA)

The junior defender leads the Thunderbirds, who also have talented goalkeeper Tyler Moore. Friel’s efforts on defense allow Kevin Johnson, one of the top midfielders in Suffolk, to push forward for Connetquot. If the Thunderbirds — who qualified for the postseason for the first time in more than a decade — get past Centereach, they could give No. 1 Brentwood a tough contest.

Tony Vigil, No. 1 Brentwood (Class AA)

He doesn’t always get the attention he should, but the senior has been playing out of position all season for his team. The former defensive midfielder moved to center back to help strengthen Brentwood’s defense. Vigil’s unselfishness is a big reason why his team finished undefeated in league play and garnered a top seed.

5. Who the heck is going to win Nassau Class AA?

Good luck with this one. A handful of the teams were atop the Nassau Conference AA-I standings at various times this season. Baldwin (9-1-4) is the top seed in a loaded class. "We [coaches] have been saying it all season — it doesn’t matter who you are facing — it’s just wide-open," said Oceanside coach Patrick Turk. "There aren’t just hurdles in our bracket, it’s more like giant obstacles, and as a fan of the game, it’s like a high school version of the [UEFA] Champions League." Indeed. Turk’s Oceanside (9-1-4) is seeded second, while Westbury (9-4-1, third), Freeport (8-3-3, fourth) and Uniondale (7-2-5, fifth) round out the top five. Even eighth-seeded Syosset (6-3-6) is a tough out.

6. Will the upsets continue in Nassau Class A

Long Beach (7-4-3) opened the playoffs with a 3-0 win against No. 17 Bellmore JFK on Oct. 20. Then, the No. 16 seed advanced against No. 1 South Side, 4-3, in penalty kicks after the two teams played to a 2-all draw. The No. 15 seed, Roosevelt (7-5-1), downed No. 2 Mineola, 3-2; No. 13 Plainedge (8-3-2) defeated No. 4 MacArthur, 1-0; No. 12 Glen Cove (9-4) knocked off No. 5 North Shore, 4-1; and No. 9 Manhasset (8-4-1) topped No. 8 Lawrence, 3-2. So the No. 16, 15, 13, 12 seeds are all still alive. Perhaps the best quarterfinal matchup on Long Island, regardless of class, is Tuesday’s game between No. 6 Carey (12-1) and No. 3 Garden City (12-1) which split in two regular season meetings. The game could very well have been the final if seedings were different. Look out for No. 7 Mepham (9-0-4) in a tough Nassau Class A.

7. Nassau’s notables.

Let’s take a look at a few players in Nassau, who can make some noise in the playoffs:

Edgar Velasquez, No. 5 Uniondale (Class AA)

The senior forward is a talented player who helps the Knights up top with four goals and nine assists. Nassau AA coaches are always nervous when Velasquez has the ball. He sets up Uniondale’s offense and distributes well. If the Knights get past No. 4 Freeport, watch for a program which captured its only Nassau title in 2017.

Josue Villeda, No. 4 Freeport (Class AA)

The senior forward is a dangerous player who gives opposing teams fits up top. He is second on the team with 10 goals and four assists. Along with teammate Tyree Baskin (10 goals, 9 assists) — these two form one of the top 1-2 scoring punches in Nassau AA.

Colin Gervasi, No. 6 Carey (Class A)

He has three goals and two assists for Carey. But it’s what the senior defender does in the back that makes him so special. He anchors Carey’s defense, and settles play down when things get dicey.

Konstantinos Karousis, No. 7 Mepham (Class A)

The center midfielder is the quarterback of the Pirates’ offensive attack. He has three goals and eight assists this season. His speed and strength on the ball makes it difficult for opposing teams to press Mepham.

8. Which small schools can make a good postseason run?

Suffolk Class B has four talented teams in the semifinals: No. 1 Babylon (14-2), No. 2 Southampton (14-2), No. 3 Mattituck (13-2-1) and No. 4 Center Moriches (9-6-1). All four are quality programs who could win the B crown. Babylon is the defending Class B champs, but Panthers coach Dennis McGovern knows how tough a repeat would be.

In Nassau Class B, No. 1 Cold Spring Harbor (8-3-1) — which won the Nassau Conference B/C-VI regular-season title — looks to be the top team, but don’t forget about No. 2 West Hempstead (6-3-3). Finally, the three-time defending Nassau Class B champs, Carle Place, moved down to Class C because of enrollment. The Frogs will play the Class B champion in the Nassau B/C championship on Saturday. Then, Carle Place (7-4-1) will face the winner of Suffolk’s C final — No. 1 Pierson/Bridgehampton (8-7-1) against No. 2 Southold (6-9-1) — in the Long Island Class C championship on Nov. 2 at Mitchel Athletic Complex at noon.

9. Can anyone challenge St. Anthony’s or Chaminade in the CHSAA?

Upsets can always happen in sports and especially soccer. One mistake by either powerhouse, as well as an outstanding opposing goalkeeper and defense, can create havoc for the favorites. However, it would be a huge upset for either Chaminade or St. Anthony’s not to reach the CHSAA final. The two teams poised for creating that kind of upheaval are Kellenberg and St. John the Baptist. Kellenberg played both St. Anthony’s and Chaminade and lost by a combined score of 13-0, but then battled St. Anthony’s to a 2-0 loss on Oct. 7. St. John the Baptist has lost to Chaminade twice (3-0 & 4-1) and once to St. Anthony’s, 3-1, on Sept. 30.

10. St. Anthony’s-Chaminade III

Boxing fans always clamor for a trilogy and CHSAA soccer fans should get to see a third meeting between these two. Chaminade beat St. Anthony’s, 2-1, on Sept. 23. However, St. Anthony’s came back three times in a 6-4 win against Chaminade on Oct. 19. St. Anthony’s knocked off the Flyers en route to a state title in 2019. Chaminade has won CHSAA titles five of the last six seasons, including state crowns from 2015-17. The winner here should have an inside track to another CHSAA state championship.

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