South Side celebrates a goal by Mike Benfante to put them...

South Side celebrates a goal by Mike Benfante to put them up 1-0 against Long Beach at a Nassau Conference A Central boys soccer game in Rockville Centre on Friday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

In a tough, tight-knit defensive battle between two of the top soccer teams in Nassau County-- Mike Benfante proved to be the difference.

Benfante’s goal just over nine minutes into the game propelled South Side to a 1-0 victory over conference leading Long Beach in Nassau Conference A Central at the RVC Athletic Complex Friday evening.

“Mike had an unbelievable shot,” South Side coach Patrick Corvetti said. “It was a close game with really good teams.”

In the first half Benfante was active early, racing to get loose balls and chasing down kicks to give his team extra possessions. With 31:30 left in the first half Benfante got control of the ball, saw an opportunity at the goal and buried the shot to give his team the 1-0 lead. 

“The defense played really well, we possessed pretty good,” Corvetti said.

Coming out of the half Corvetti had a message to his team. He wanted them to win more 50-50 balls, start using the width of the field and get the ball out of the middle of the field, where all the players were crowding in the first half.

South Side followed its coach’s advice and kept Long beach from finding the back of the net for the rest of the contest.

Jack Phelan made six saves for South Side to lead their defensive efforts.

“That goes to my defense, my defense was lockdown today,” Phelan said.

Last year after earning the top seed in the conference, South Side suffered a gut-wrenching loss in the first round to Long Beach on penalty kicks after two overtimes..

“We knew it was going to be a big game coming in especially off of last year," Benfante said,  "so we had this day marked on our calendars.”

“Everyone had a chip on their shoulder going into this and I think that just boosted us,” Phelan said.

Entering the game Long Beach (4-1-1) was undefeated in conference play, so South Side (5-1) knew it would have work to do to avenge last year's defeat.

When asked what it means to hand Long Beach its first defeat in conference play, Phelan said, “it feels great, we’re in first place now. It feels awesome.”

Benfante, showing his jubilation after leading his team to victory, said, “Yeah we are coming for counties.”

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