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Point of View: Still a Great Team

Wed, 11/09/2022 - 18:43

They say it’s “the beautiful game,” and yet some teams that play soccer in a less beautiful, even ugly fashion, can win as often as not — as Half Hollow Hills West did here on Halloween — through untrammeled will.

I wouldn’t argue that soccer refs be whistle happy, as I think those in field hockey games are, but surely more could have been blown in East Hampton’s favor during its crushing 1-0 semifinal round playoff loss. It doesn’t seem coincidental that I’m writing this on its morrow, the Day of the Dead.

As the players stood around afterward, despondent in the silence, I said that it was “still a great team.” In fact, I had wondered earlier in the season if it weren’t East Hampton’s best ever, but perhaps the 2014 squad, led by Nick West, Esteban Valverde, and Bryan Oreamuno, was.

But, if you remember, it was pretty clear that East Hampton’s 4-2 loss to Greece Athena of Rochester in that year’s state final was preordained given the absence of West, whose left foot had been broken the day before by a Jamesville-DeWitt player after he had scored twice in the first half of a state semifinal, which the Bonackers went on to win 3-0.

John Villaplana, Ernesto Valverde, Mario Olaya, West. . . . These were the players opponents had to shut down if they wanted to beat East Hampton, which, since Valverde’s senior year in 2009, has been formidable in boys soccer. This fall’s team, in contrast, had on it a half-dozen potential scorers, Eric Armijos, Michael Figueroa, Brian Tacuri, John Bustamente, Gary Gutama, Jose Calderon, and Christopher Guallpa among them, and while its defense did not have a standout stopper like Ben McCarron or Oreamuno, it was solid.

Hills West didn’t care much about playing beautifully, preferring to kick high down the field, in the hope that the Colts’ forwards would chase those kicks down.

Once, in the 57th minute, that somewhat wild, careening style of play worked, and that was all it took. Three minutes later a hands ball in East Hampton’s penalty box, which many spectators saw and remarked on and which would have resulted in a penalty kick for East Hampton, went unacknowledged by the refs. Not to mention a highly questionable call that in the 29th minute annulled a seeming goal by Armijos, who, when asked afterward if he had been offsides, said he wasn’t.

But don’t get me going. Suffice it to say that this team played the game beautifully, and it should be remembered for that.

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