Under Ramirez’s watchful eye …Newtown is starting to blossom

When John Ramirez took the high school soccer job at Newtown, he did so with a plan.
The former Molloy College and Long Island University coach wanted to return a winning tradition to the northwest Queens school. Nevertheless, he was not going to make sacrifices either.
Therefore, despite last fall’s third-place finish in one of the best divisions in the city and a spot in the playoffs, the team was quite different this year. Just three players are back from that group, and not just because of graduation.
“It’s because I don’t want kids that aren’t disciplined,” said Ramirez, in his third year at Newtown. “I want the kids who want to learn the game, along with academics. … Last year I had a lot of juniors and seniors who were too far-gone. This year, I concentrated on picking freshman and sophomores and molding them.”
“In every game,” he later added, “little by little, we’re getting better.”
Ramirez is already seeing progress. Despite holding out senior fullback Efren Restrepo, junior forward Alexis Celleri, and sophomore fullback Flavio Tamay - three of his best players - for much of the game, the Pioneers beat Aviation, 3-2. The Flyers, who boast the city’s leading scorer in Giorgio Ferrara (eight goals), have been one of the best teams in the city the last few years and arguably Queens’ finest. They lost in the PSAL ‘A’ quarterfinals the last two years and the semis in 2005.
It was a tale of two halves. Newtown (2-1-2) controlled the first one, leading 2-1 at intermission. Aviation dominated after that, getting even on junior midfielder Brayan Roman’s first goal of the year. After Newtown took the lead - when an Aviation fullback scored an own-goal, although it was credited to senior midfielder Juan Murillo - the Flyers controlled possession. Ferrara had several chances he usually nets, in addition to a few other teammates blowing opportunities.
“The ball didn’t bounce in our favor,” Aviation Coach Mario Cotumaccio said.
Nevertheless, the Pioneers held on, a sure sign of maturity. They did not panic when Aviation (3-2-1) got even at two, and held strong down the stretch.
“I’m very happy,” Ramirez said, “because Aviation is a team to respect. This game was important for their confidence level, for them to see that even though we didn’t have three of the top players, the team can go on without anyone at any particular time.”
As a sign his young players are buying into his system, they were not particularly overjoyed after the win. In fact, many of them considered themselves fortunate.
“We won by just luck,” Murillo said. “We have to keep working hard and do the best we can every game.”
“It’s not a big thing,” senior striker Brian Cardenas said. “It’s just a win.”
As usual, Ramirez spoke to his players for close to half an hour after the victory. It was more about remaining focused and getting to practice on time than their actual performance. He did speak about their shortcomings - their lack of communication at times and teamwork that needs to improve. He also made a point to single out three errant players, two of whom were late to practice and therefore did not start, and a third who did not show up.
“[We need] discipline,” Cardenas said. “It makes the team better. More formed.”
“He has a professional act,” Cotumaccio said of Ramirez. “He puts a lot of time and effort in his team. They are beginning to jell. They are going to be a team to reckon with in the next year or so.”

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