Maidstone Market continued its undefeated string of championships in the 7-on-7 men’s soccer league here, defeating Tortorella Pools 3-1 in the playoff final on Aug. 1.
Tortorella, the tournament’s fourth seed, had upset top-seeded 75 Main 2-1 in one of the semifinals while Maidstone, the dominant men’s soccer team locally in the past four years, had shut out Bateman Painting 2-0 in the other semi.
Thus the Market, whose manager is John Romero, finished the regular and post seasons with a 9-1-2 record, its sole loss, by a score of 2-1, coming at the hands, as it were, of 75 Main on July 11. Romero said it was the eighth straight 7-on-7 championship for Maidstone — the league plays a fall and spring season each year — though given the fact that the string began in July of 2008, it may have been the ninth straight.
With a lineup that includes the league’s top three scorers, Mario Olaya, Gehider Garcia, and Luis Correa, not to mention the league’s best goalie, Alex Meza, and other strong players — Esteban Valverde, Antonio Padilla, Gerber Garcia, Carlos Torres, and John and Matthew Romero among them — it is hard to imagine any other team keeping up with Maidstone, at least when it is at full strength, as it was for the final contested at East Hampton’s Herrick Park.
Afterward, the elder Romero, who because of the death of his father in Colombia this summer had not entered an 11-man team in a semipro Sunday league up the Island, told his players that they were to be commended for continuing to play with such passion despite their accustomed success.
Tortorella, which finished the regular season with a losing record, at 4-5-1, did not by any means go gently that night. A jaw-dropping 40-yard sizzler off the foot of Rene Gutierrez that sailed high over a leaping Meza into the right corner of Maidstone’s nets at the end of the first half sent the teams into break tied at 1-1.
Maidstone took the field with Correa, Gehider Garcia, and John Romero on the front line, and with Padilla, Gerber Garcia, and Torres on defense, and with Meza in the goal.
Tortorella’s starting forwards were David Rodriguez, Steven Orrego, and Eddie Lopez, with Rodolfo Marin, Christian Munoz, and Gutierrez defending. Craig Caiazza minded Tortorella’s nets.
Maidstone took it to Tortorella for most of the first half, though wasn’t able to cash in until, with about 12 minutes gone in the 30-minute period, Gehider Garcia beat Caiazza to the left corner from in close after Padilla had chipped the ball up to him.
Several minutes later, Tortorella came close as Rodriguez’s one-touch of a cross from Marin went just wide, and despite the entry into the game at that point of Olaya, the “golden boot” award winner, Tortorella seized the momentum. Before Gutierrez’s jaw-dropper, which was launched from midfield, Munoz, Lopez, and Orrego were presented with four or five scoring opportunities much closer to Maidstone’s goal.
Valverde joined Correa and Gehider Garcia on Maidstone’s front line when the second half began, and immediately made his presence known, rocketing a shot off the right post.
Soon after, Correa alertly deposited a behind-the-back pass from Valverde past Caiazza from about 8 yards out for a 2-1 lead. Though a victory wasn’t guaranteed: moments later, Gehider Garcia was yellow-carded after pushing Lopez to the turf, which forced Maidstone to play a man-down for several minutes, though the champs withstood Tortorella’s attacks, and even countered with a couple of their own before the sides were all even again.
Maidstone clinched the victory in the final minutes as Olaya, who was unmarked at the right post, tapped in the rebound of a shot taken by Gehider Garcia. Munoz and Gutierrez, who had come up to challenge Maidstone’s best ball-handler, could only look back over their shoulders as the ball went over the line.
When it was noted afterward that the Market had been without its imposing center midfielder, Diego Marles, this season, the man who has customarily orchestrated the team’s offense, John Romero said, “Yes, no Diego, but even so these guys always find a way.”