In his Cedar Stars Academy - Newark debut, Allan Umana made a statement or two.
In first game with the club, he scored both goals in his new team's 2-1 season-opening victory over city-rival Ironbound Soccer Club Sunday, the game-winner coming a minute into second-half stoppage time of the 13U Mid Atlantic club vs. club series at Riverfront Park in Newark, N.J.
In the 14U matchup, Ironbound registered an 8-1 win over CSA Newark. In the 13U game, CSA Newark rallied from a 1-0 second-half deficit to win. "It's a great start to the season," CSA Newark director of coaching Kieran Patrick said. "Two goals show he's a cracker of a finisher, which is rare. He's got a good eye for the goal."
It was a hotly contested encounter between teams that are not only based in the same city, but situated "five minutes up the road from us," Patrick said. "Definitely a lot of familiaity but a healthy rivalry."
"It was a keenly contested game," he added. "It's always a tough game when we play these guys. I'm happy to win, but I would have been happy with a tie."
Ironbound drew first blood in the 52nd-minute, scoring off a rebound from a cross. Then Umana went into action. He scored on a breakaway, going 1 v 1 with the goalkepeer in the 63rd minute before finishing a Jacob Cole right-wing cross with little time remaining to seal the three points.
The elements made life difficult for all four teams as a constant rain fell during both contests.
In the 14U league match-up, Ironbound grabbed a 2-0 halftime advantage. Caleb Crawley tallied for CSA Newark before Ironbound scored six times in the second half of the 70-minute affair.
"Our guys gave a good fight," Patrick said. "That's a good Ironbound team. They're very impressive, a good organized team. ... They were just the stronger team on the field."
CSA Newark plays out of St. Benedict's Prep, one of the best high schools in the United States. So, the club wants to play at the highest level possible and performing in the US Youth Soccer National League EDP Conference makes the challenge even greater.
"It was a big step up in competition for our guys," Patrick said. "This is the competitive level we're striving for and trying to attain. Today we weren't at the level of Ironbound [in the 13U game]. We'll go to work to make sure we get there."
Real Jersey Football Club dropped a 2-0 decision to New Jersey Elite in its season opening match at Bob Bende Park in Medford, N.J. Sunday, but director of coaching Jon Kopytko felt his team could use the game as a learning experience.
"We can use it to grow and develop and get better as the season goes on," he said. NJ Elite scored both of its goals in the second half of the 70-minute match, the first during the run of play in the 43rd minute, the second via a penalty kick in the 60th minute.
In the 14U match, Lower Merion recorded a 2-1 win before the New Jersey side turned the tables in the 13U encounter at Phoenixville High School in Phoenixville, Pa.
Bryce Dodd snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the 39th minute to lift Lower Merion over SJEB Rush in the 14U game. "They did well," Merion coach Jared Harris said. "I thought we came out really strong in the first half. It was good to get a goal early. In the second half it was good to get an early goal. That was huge."
Simon Rosen gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. Okafor Norkeh raced down the left flank before crossing the ball into Rosen, who finished with his left foot. SJEB Rush then equalized off a corner kick in the 18th minute.
Four minutes into the second half in the 70-minute match, Dodd connected for the game-winner. The ball popped up as Dodd flicked it over the goalkeeper's head, ran onto his "pass" to himself and tapped it into an unattended net.
Lower Merion protected the lead over the final 31 minutes. "I thought the boys did a good job of closing out the game," Harris said. "It was a good result coming out and finding a way to win."
Harris praised two players -- Norkeh for creating many chances on the left side while beating defenders on a consistent basis and center back Eddie Wright.
"He did a great job of closing out the game," he said, adding that Wright cleared a ball off the line midway through the second half. He did a good job of not letting them get behind us. He had a very solid performance as well."
In the 13U contest, SJEB Rush scored a pair of late goals to break a 2-2 tie to register a 4-2 win over Lower Merion. There were several nice goals scored from distance in this confrontation. Center back Griffin Kades started it off for Lower Merion firing home a 25-yard shot in the eighth minute. "It was a cracker of a goal," Lower Merion coach Gabe Betancourt said.
SJEB Rush struck for the next two goals, a shot from the top of the penalty area in the 20th minute and the go-ahead goal from 20 yards out in the 32nd minute of the 70-minute match. "It's hard to take those shots from there, but at 13U, if you shoot it just under the bar [you can score]," Betancourt said.
Fionnan Murray knotted things up at 2-2 for Lower Merion in the 55th minute, with a left-footed effort from 14 yards. Betancourt noted that it wasn't Murray's dominant foot, "which was nice."
SJEB Rush took over the match, scoring twice within an eight-minute span, in the 57th and 65th minutes. The insurance goal was a beauty. "We were opening up, trying to take chances," Betancourt said. Then SJEB sent in a left-wing cross in which a player volleyed it to the upper 90. "It was just stunning," Betancourt said. "South Jersey did a real nice job possessing [the ball], switching the point of attack," he added.
Betancourt noted that his players had to get used to a new substitution system in which once a player is replaced, he cannot return to the match.
"If you're substituted 13 minutes into the first half, you can't come back into the match," he said. "That was definitely a factor for some of my players. It's challenging. It's something they need to adjust to, managing their time on the field."
Lower Merion has six new players on the team."We're still in the process of finding our way for all the pieces to mesh," Betancourt said. "We look forward to playing them in the spring as well."