MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ (updated Friday, Sept. 9, 10:23 a.m.) – The Columbia High School boys’ varsity soccer team, guided by third-year head coach Josh Russotto, hopes to have a successful season.
CHS will look to overcome the loss of approximately 15 graduated players, in addition to Mateo Green, who has chosen to participate in Player Development Academy competition, and three other players who are committed to other activities.
Leading the Cougars this season will be senior center-halfback Ryan Perlee, senior defender/midfielder Joe Borello, senior center-midfielder Van Brantley, junior center-midfielder Alex Lauder, and junior forwards Joe Dente and Rashid Peart.
In addition, sophomore midfielder Julian Lyons also will be a key contributor.
Sam Maidenberg, a sophomore, will man the net.
Defensively, Perlee will be the team’s commander. A starter in every game last season, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Perlee is the biggest player in the Super Essex Conference and a punishing tackler while dominating in the air, lauded Russotto. Perlee also will come forward on set pieces, noted the coach.
Maidenberg, as the goalie, plays his position extremely well as one
of the team’s lead communicators and fiercest competitors, Russotto lauded.
“Sam reads the game well, manages the box like a savvy veteran, and can launch the team attack with one of his drop kicks,” the coach said.
On the attack, Peart and Dente will get most of the minutes up front. “Both can change a game instantly with one of their lethal strikes,” Russotto said.
Brantley, Lauder and Lyons will be in the midfield mix.
Last season, the Cougars finished 5-11-2. Both ties occurred in the Essex County Tournament and state North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 tournament with the outcomes decided by a penalty-kick shootout. CHS lost to Bloomfield, 5-4, in PKs, in the ECT first round after a 1-1 tie following the overtime period.
The Cougars played Plainfield to a scoreless game before winning on PKs, 3-1, in the sectional tournament first round. CHS then lost to East Side, 3-1, in the quarterfinals to end the season.
The Cougar tied Montclair Kimberley Academy, 0-0, in a grueling double-overtime battle in the season opener Sept. 8. The team played very attractive soccer at Van Brundt Field, said Russotto.
The Cougars finished the preseason by defeating Governor Livingston, 2-0, and Cranford, 1-0. They tied Madison, 1-1, and lost to Randolph, 2-1.
“The team’s goals for the season are to finish above .500, atop the Liberty Division, and advance into recent unchartered territory in the ECT and state tournament,” Russotto said. “This team has raised the bar of expectations.”
Next week, the Cougars have three tough matchups (Newark Tech on Sept. 13 at 4 p.m., Bloomfield on Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. and West Essex on Sept. 17 at 10 a.m.) in five days, all at home at their new match day field, Ritzer Field on Valley Street behind CHS.
Russotto also said other key contributors this season are senior defenders Zach Benslimane and Ben Majtyka, and junior midfielder Cameron Donald. “They’ve been very consistent and reliable,” he said.
Senior Sean Grafing and junior Josh Anthony will mix into the backline equation.
“Rashid Peart, Sammy Freedson, Joe Dente and Jamesley Archille are the teeth of our 4-3-3 attack,”: Russotto said. “ A high-quality rotation of a deadly free-kick specialist (Rashid), an enigmatic and unpredictable menace (Jamesley), an explosive and athletic No. 9 (Joe Dente) and a quick and unselfish winger who combines well and whips in service to the box (Sammy). All are juniors with a lot to prove. Also mixing into attack will be senior Sean Lluc Gallart-Bekkedahl and Steven Kattouf.
Russotto also noted that Lauder and Lyons have been “pitbulls in midfield. The diminutive duo wreak havoc in midfield with their relentless pressure, fearless challenges and quick incisive passing.”