By Joseph Staszewski
The top boys’ soccer teams from Queens have proven to be kings of the CHSAA so far.
Defending city champion St. Francis Prep, perennial power Archbishop Molloy and a budding Christ the King program are the only Class AA teams with 10 wins or more coming into this week. Just three points separated the clubs in the Brooklyn/Queens division. Molloy, which ended St. Francis Prep’s 10-game winning streak last week, sits alone in first place.
“It’s very good to see there are a lot of good players in the Queens vicinity,” Christ the King Coach Ovid Cusu said. “On the other hand, it’s bad because we have to compete against each other.”
The race could cause a sticky situation. There could be a three-way tie for first if all the teams win out, including Christ the King beating defending Catholic state champ Fordham Prep. It would set up a showdown between Molloy and Christ the King this Thursday that could determine first place.
If CK wins, the teams would split the head-to-head match-ups. The division title and a key playoff seed would be decided by the goals-for stats. The most you can earn is a plus-three per game.
In the playoffs, the team that comes in third faces a tougher intersectional quarterfinal game and a possible date with the Brooklyn/Queens winner in the semifinals. A second-place finish allows that team to avoid the other two until the final.
“It’s going to be interesting,” St. Francis Prep Coach Franco Purificato said.
The coaches aren’t exactly sure the reason for Queens’ dominance of the league outside Fordham Prep. One possibility is the effect of the new rule put in place by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
The academy schedule now runs for 10 months from September to June and makes players chose between playing for their high school or an academy. Molloy Coach Andy Kostel said it has penalized teams in a different way.
“We have three academies in our area,” he said. “We got hurt an awful lot. I think Iona and Fordham got hurt with different kinds of plays. Maybe ours aren’t the best.”
Purificato seems to believe Queens’ surge may be just a byproduct of a down year for the league. He said he only has one academy player in Eric Mirkov now that star Kenny Redzematovic is out for the season with a torn ACL.
“I don’t think we are any better or worse than we’ve been,” Purificato said. “I just think the league in general might be a step down.”
Molloy lost up to 10 players for the varsity and JV teams to the academies, but only one of them would have been one of the Top 5 players on the team, according to Kostel. Christ the King lost four players, including star goalie Christian Nolasco and Frederico Curbelo.
Despite that, the three teams’ depth of talent has them favored to reach the intersectional semifinals. The path they will have to take to get there will play out this week.
“The level has raised,” Cusu said. “Whoever comes in hungry that day is probably going to win. We are capable of beating each other.”