by Andrew Garda
Coach Toure Weaver swears that his team hasn’t even scratched its potential, despite a very strong showing in its 3-1 victory over the Livingston Lancers Friday afternoon at Fortunato Field.
“This is nothing,” the coach said after Friday’s win.”I think you’re going to be a lot more impressed with where I think we can get to. Because this? Even the guys know they can play better than they did today.”
If that’s the case, the American Division had better watch out, because this Mounties team is going to be very dangerous.
Montclair scored its first goal on a free kick by senior Reece Bordick less than two minutes into the first half. Bordick’s shot tore through a defensive wall of Lancers and curved into the upper left-hand corner of the goal.
Not wanting to give the Lancers a moment to regroup, the Mounties stayed aggressive on offense and shortly after struck again, this time with a beautiful shot by junior William Buttner that slipped by Livingston keeper Elijah Elster.
Weaver said the team will push on offense regardless of the lead.
“We need to put a team away, don’t even let them sniff thinking they can win.”
The Mounties did a beautiful job moving the ball throughout the game, crisply sending it around the field and making Livingston run everywhere to keep up. The game was physical — Livingston ended up with two yellow cards and Buttner got banged up — but the Mounties never allowed themselves to get sucked into the rough play, staying relatively cool and calm.
It certainly helped that Rowan O’Brien was very sharp in goal for MHS, allowing just one score on the day and making several nice saves to keep the Mounties in the lead, including one at the 10-minute mark that he tipped just over the crossbar.
“He’s a great keeper and he was able to make sure we kept that two-goal lead,” Weaver said. “That could have changed the whole course of the game. All of a sudden it’s 3-2 with 10 minutes left and now they have all this momentum.”
That level of play is what the team expects from O’Brien.
“Those are the kind of things we expect … just because we’ve seen it so much from him.”
That said, Weaver feels the team has to be more careful on defense to keep its goaltenders from having to make superhero-style saves.
“In terms of giving up those opportunities, we can’t as a team let that happen. There were some times where we got caught out of shape defensively, and [Livingston] was a little bit too dangerous for me.”
One thing that definitely helped the Mounties grind out the end of the game was the ability to substitute players often in the second half. Weaver has talked before about how deep this team is and the advantage that gives the Mounties. Friday proved his point rather well. Not only was the coaching staff able to keep legs fresh with frequent substitutions, but those subs stepped up.
None more than Declan O’Sullivan, who sealed the Mounties’ win in the 26th minute of the second half with a nice goal. Weaver said that O’Sullivan’s score was a very nice surprise.
“He hadn’t played as much in the preseason,” Weaver explained, “so I just wanted to get him some minutes today, and he steps on [the pitch] and on one of his first touches, he puts it back. That was really nice to see.”
Weaver said that no matter who he puts on the field, the level of play doesn’t drop. Sometimes, he said, it even raises. That’s how deep the talent is on this Mounties squad.
Which, according to Weaver, keeps everyone on his team on their toes.
“A huge part of it for me is accountability. Guys know that if they step on the field and aren’t doing the tactics we’re asking for, or giving the intensity we want, then there are three or four guys who are hungry to get on the field.”
That, in turn, should keep everyone they face on their toes as well.