It’s been a while, a long while in fact, since the Maidstone Market has faced a serious competitor in the Wednesday evening 7-on-7 men’s soccer league, whose games are played at East Hampton’s Herrick Park.
This season, a team that plays under the 75 Main banner, a team that comprises Tony Shoshi, Cesar Galea, Cesar Correa, Alfredo Negrete, Romulo Tubatan, Angel Garces, Fabian Arias, Walter Arias, Donald Nunez, Joe Fromm, Carlos Portillo, Juan Reves, Rafael Rodriguez, and Olger (Quique) Araya, the goalie, has gone undefeated thus far. Even without Shoshi, 75 Main put itself in the driver’s seat as far as the regular season title was concerned by defeating the Market 2-1 on June 27.
Both teams were without a loss — though each had two ties — going into the clash. Maidstone pressured 75 Main in the early going, but the Restaurateurs’ defense held up. Meanwhile, Galea, one of the league’s top scorers, was frequently double-teamed at the other end by Maidstone’s defenders.
Alex Meza, Maidstone’s goalie, arguably the best in the league, made a great point-blank save of a shot taken in close by Cesar Correa midway through the first half. Though just before the period was to end, Ernesto Valverde, who’s playing Elmira College, and Mario Olaya, a Suffolk Community-bound East Hampton High School graduate who led the Bonackers to their first-ever county championship last fall, were inserted into Maidstone’s lineup, and quickly combined forces to beat Araya moments before the referee Alex Ramirez’s whistle sounded. It was the sixth goal of the season by Olaya, who leads the league in the “golden boot” competition.
Negrete was red-carded by Ramirez early in the second half, which resulted in 75 Main having to play a man down, but despite being short-handed, Correa blasted a shot by Meza from about 10 yards out to tie the score at 1-1.
Still, with Gehider Garcia, Olaya, and Valverde matched together on Maidstone’s front line, and with Carlos Torres and Antonio Padilla, and John Romero behind them, it seemed just a matter of time before the Market — which has won eight playoff championships here in recent years — took over.
Not surprisingly, Araya was to come under a lot of pressure, but he was up to the task, and got lucky when Olaya, who’d received the ball from Padilla, tapped a ground-hugging shot just wide of the right post. The Restaurateurs immediately countered with a long pass up to Galea, who, after taking the ball in stride, beat a defender and then shocked Meza with 75 Main’s second goal of the evening.
Garcia made a strong bid to tie it up at 2-2, but his shot bounced off the left post. Soon after, he stepped in to cut off a clear attempt by Araya, but 75 Main’s goalie parried the shot, taken from medium range.
Near the game’s end, Romero was red-carded after protesting a call by Ramirez, an ejection that left each team with five players on the field, though neither was able to score in the final minutes.
In other games that night, Tortorella Pools and Bateman Painting played to a 2-2 tie, and Tuxpan shut out Espo’s 4-0.
The standings as of this week — no games were to have been played last night, July 4 — showed 75 Main (6-0-2) in the lead with 20 points followed by Maidstone (5-1-2) with 17, Tortorella (4-3-1) with 13, Bateman (2-2-4) with 10, Tuxpan (1-6-1) with 4, and Espo’s (0-6-2) with 2.
Since 75 Main’s remaining two games were to be with Espo’s, Leslie Czeladko, the league’s spokesman, said on the league’s Website that “they should finish first. All 75 Main needs is 3 points. . . . The only way for Maidstone to finish first is if 75 Main loses both matches with Espo’s, which is unlikely.”
Wednesday’s lineup is to be 75 Main vs. Espo’s at 6:30 p.m., Bateman vs. Tuxpan at 7:25, and Tortorella Pools vs. Maidstone Market at 8:20.
The playoffs are to begin July 25 with the one seed versus the fourth at 6:30, and three versus two at 7:40.