When Matteo Martino came into this season, he had a goal and assist registered to his name at Jericho. Now he’s running the show.
The junior midfielder has become an integral part of Jericho’s offense, and he leads Nassau with 15 assists, almost double the next highest player.
“Last year I was more conservative I guess,” Martino said. “I wasn’t going for goal as much. I was trying to get a feel for the team, but now this year I’ve definitely developed and I’m definitely going for goal more, trying to create plays.”
Now he’s connecting with goal scorers and picking up the pace of the players around him. The lead striker, Todd Perlman, is No. 3 in the county with 13 goals, and Martino has been a factor in that.
“I always have faith in myself,” Martino said. “Now I’m really just trying to give it my all and squeeze everything out — trying to like create a lot and go for goal more.”
His limited use a year ago had little to do with his talent and more with the team he was on, coach Dani Braga said. Jericho went 11-3-5 and lost in the county championship with a team that had many seniors, including Ethan Haas.
“It is his team. As much as Ethan was our engine last year, Matteo creates and does everything he does for us,” Braga said. “He’s two or three passes ahead of everyone else.”
This year, Jericho hasn’t skipped a beat. The Jayhawks are 9-1-2 and 7-1-1 in Conference A-I, which they lead by four points. Julian Drew is tied for third in the county with seven assists.
“Our style of play is not particularly around one guy,” Braga said. “Our style is a team first style.”
While Martino has thrived in the team-first environment this season, his development started years ago, when he lived and played in three European countries: Poland, Hungary and Turkey for around three years at each stop.
“We were able to find great clubs that had great soccer and it really helped my performance,” Martino said. “It definitely helped my soccer skills develop because I had such great coaching there.”
After his first season at Jericho, Martino had the option to play for academy clubs, but chose to remain and be part of a top team. “I really had faith in Dani and the team,” Martino said. “I really knew we could go far. I felt the team could really help not only me but everyone around.”
That faith is paying off and Martino is becoming a well-known name in Long Island boys soccer.
“He’s put in a lot of work and the dividends are showing right now,” Braga said. “He’s a force.”