By Michael Lewis
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It takes a goalkeeper with a keen eye to notice the defining details on how the opposition takes penalty kicks, especially in a shootout.
So, there’s probably no one better or quite appropriate than a New York State Trooper pick up the clues.
Goalkeeper Jeff Rink did that in triplicate in the tie-breaker, which pushed Port Jefferson SC to the Cangero Super Cup title of the Long Island Soccer Football League.
Rink put on a scintillating display and clinic, saving three out of a possible five PKs as Port Jefferson won the shootout, 3-2, after playing to a 2-2 draw in regulation with Kosmos United FC at Mitchel Athletic Complex Saturday night.
“We had a great keeper pull through,” said Tyrell Ippolito, who paced Port Jeff with both goals.
“He’s phenomenal. It comes with the age, knowing where to be. You can’t coach some of the stuff he does on the field.”
Rink, a 37-year-old State Trooper, was magnificent during the tie-breaker.
“I will be feeling this tomorrow,” he said about his active game. “It feels good right now, of course.”
Rink said he had never lost a shootout in eight confrontations.
So, what was Rink’s secret in stopping penalties?
“Just watching players’ mannerisms as they walk up the field,” he said “A lot of people think they’re looking at the goal when they’re actually placing the ball, when in fact they’re looking at where they’re shooting when they’re walking up to the ball because they don’t think we’re looking at that. That’s why when I go in for a PK, I’m already on the line waiting for them. I don’t stand in front of them. I don’t wait for them to put the ball down. I’m ready to go.”
Rink set the tone on the very first PK, diving to the right to deny Georgios Thomatos. Vince Erdei got Port Jeff pointed in the right direction by converting his attempt to the to the upper left past Kosmos goalkeeper George Angelidis.
After the Kosmos’ George Alaverdashvili put his try into the lower left, Cody Kaczetow connected to the lower right to boost Port Jeff to a 2-1 lead after two rounds.
Then Rink grabbed the spotlight again as he smothered Niko Touros’ attempt and dived to the right to deny Urin Bibovic. Meanwhile, Zachary Galluzzo hit the crossbar and Ippolito hit the right post as Port Jeff stayed ahead by a goal.
“It’s anyone’s game when you end up in a PK shootout,” Touros said. “Growing up, my brother was a goalkeeper, my father was a goalkeeper, I always felt i knew the sciences behind it and what’s in the other keeper’s brains, but Jeff, he had it down pat man. He knew exactly what he was doing. He guessed every single penalty correctly.”
Sunnatillo Khusanov put his attempt home to the lower left, leaving it up to center back Digay “Papy” Sy.
Sy walked up to the penalty spot. Before he shot, he looked back and motioned to the Port Jeff bench.
“At that point I was trying to take the stress off my back because everyone was counting on that,” he said. “I was stressed out myself, fear of missing. Guess what? I was trying to find a distraction. So I kind of used that to hit the ball and take all the pressure off me.”
It worked as Sy ripped a shot into the upper left corner of the net.
“Both teams played to win the game,” he said. “They came back from a 2-0 deficit and went to Pks. Scoring was amazing. We already lost two finals. Losing this would have been kind of bad for us as far as momentum and everything else.”
Port Jeff will meet Lansdowne Bhoys of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, the 2017 national champions of the U.S. Amateur Cup and Werner Fricker Cup in the Sal Rapaglia Cup at the Verrazano Sports Complex in Brooklyn Sunday afternoon.
“Oh, I am not looking forward to that,” Sy said with a laugh. “But it is a game we have to play.”
Sy then got serious.
“It’s always challenging to play them,” he said. “It’s good to test the team and see how we can move forward up in the season.”
Added Rink: “Just go out every game the same way. Just go out and give it your best. If they beat you, you know that you lost, giving it your all. You win, it’s a statement.”
By the opening half hour, Port Jeff enjoyed a 2-0 advantage, thanks to Ippolito, who tallied virtual identical goals from the right side in the eighth and 29th minutes.
“I tell my players to stay wide and I kind of took that upon myself,” said Ippolito, the boys’ head coach at Centereach High School. “I just had great teammates that saw me making the run. Literally every single time there was just a perfect ball and the easier part was finishing.”
Ippolito certainly had something to tell his team when it returned to training this week.
“I wish some of my players could have been here,” he said. “I could brag about it a little bit.”
Port Jeff certainly did not have much to brag out in the second half as Kosmos surged back into the match during an eight-minute span.
“It shows that we are tenacious,” Kosmos midfielder Peter Touros said. “We didn’t let up. We found a window where they kind of dropped their game and we took advantage of it. A few lucky bounces and we’re really excited that we got those two goals. Maybe five more minutes it would have been a different game.”
Said Ippolito: “We just let up mentally, which we was what we talked about at halftime, what not to do. It’s tough when there’s a lot going on and the pitch is slippery. But again, they’re a good team, any team like that can come back from two-nil down.”
First, Khusanov beat Rink in the penalty area to slice the lead in the half in the 75th minute.
Lawrence Nikaj slipped in a shot from the left side that seemingly took forever to curl and settle into the right corner for a 2-2 deadlock in the 83rd minute.
“It was like that for us, too,” midfielder Niko Touros said. “We had a couple of chances in the game where he was on a breakaways. Either Jeff saved it or he hit it just wide or over the bar. We were really hoping that this kid was going to put this one way. He’s like Wayne Rooney. He can have a terrible game the whole game, but if you give him the chance, he will finish. He will score. We were really lucky to have him in for that situation.”
And that could go triple for Port Jefferson and goalkeeper Jeff Rink.