By Joseph Staszewski
The division-clinching game reinforced everything Alex Navarette believed about his veteran team.
“The kids are more mature,” the John Adams boys’ soccer coach said.
He watched his squad fall behind two goals to Bryant at the half, only to rally and win 4-3 in overtime last week to secure the PSAL Queens A West title for the third time in five years. Sweeper Akeem Morgan tied the score with 30 seconds left in regulation and Wendy Lafortune scored the winning goal 2:00 into the extra session. The team’s seniors, whose maturity Navarette lauded, spoke at the half about how it didn’t want to let the crown get away from them.
“It was a very emotional time,” star defender Rupert Jones said. “We had to go out with a win. We had to leave with a division [title].”
The performance was a major sign of maturity for a senior-laden group, following an up-and-down campaign a year ago. John Adams (10-1-1) finished third in the division last year before getting hot and making a run to the quarterfinals as the No. 20 seed. That gave the players confidence and raised their expectation for this year.
“It showed us we could push and push to another level,” Jones said.
The player who had done that with his game the most is senior forward Mamadou Balde. He didn’t score a goal last season and this year he has 13 tallies and two assists. Navarette, saw in the preseason how much he improved.
“He is a senior,” the coach said. “Sometimes these kids come out of their shell, but you have to believe in these players.”
Blue-collar forward Ronald Castro David, in his first season after coming from Honduras, has also provided an offensive spark with seven goals and eight assists. Jones, despite being a defender, transitions the ball from offense to defense and has the green light from Navarette to dribble up the field and attack.
“He’s doesn’t get nervous,” Navarette said of Jones. “He passes by the players and always makes the right play.”
John Adams hopes to at least reach the semifinals and compete for a title. It’s only loss came when Navarette earned a red card and did not play a game.
The coach believes his team is moving in the right direction with the playoffs right around the corner. John Adams is confident its strong play and maturity can carry it further than last season.
“Even if we get to the semis, at least we went somewhere further,” Jones said. “That’s all the seniors really want.”
Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.