Yunior Velasquez embraced the spotlight when he had a chance to advance Glen Cove past unbeaten MacArthur into Nassau Class A boys’ soccer quarterfinals.
The senior defenseman delivered with the clinching goal during the final round of penalty kicks last Friday night to set off a wild celebration with his teammates on Glen Cove’s home field after a marathon first round playoff match that lasted more than two and half hours. He initially planned to aim right before switching at the last minute with a strike into the middle of the net to seal a 5-4 penalty kicks win following a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes of standard play.
“I came out focused,” said Velasquez moments after his team’s dramatic victory that kept the Big Red postseason run alive while also ending MacArthur’s undefeated season in heartbreak. “I had a lot of confidence.”
Velasquez’s heroics were set up by a big save from Glen Cove goalie Jason Hernandez in the third round of penalty kicks. The senior goalkeeper recorded five saves to help keep the match tied including a diving stop in the 56th minute off a long MacArthur throw in.
“He came up huge for us,” Glen Cove coach Brian Smith said of Hernandez, who prior to the MacArthur match was a field player who tallied an assist in a 4-2 win against Roslyn on Oct. 15.
Glen Cove held a 1-0 lead at halftime off a goal from Brayan Velasquez in the 17th minute off a rebound from a free kick. MacArthur’s Pablo Contreras knotted the score at 1-1 on a penalty kick goal 4:33 into the second half.
“MacArthur has a tough physical playing style and they did a good job defending us,” Smith said. “I thought we did a really solid job of playing a structured game and we were able to push back on all of their attacking opportunities.”
The ninth-seeded Generals marched into the playoffs following an unbeaten regular season at 9-0-4. MacArthur advanced past Clarke 3-1 in first round of the playoffs Oct. 23 on the strength of goals from Jimmy Mahoney and Vincenzo Montefusco along with two assists by Danny Conigliaro. Freshman goalie Tyler Behr shined in both playoff games with five saves against Clarke and eight stops versus Glen Cove.
“To have your first loss of the year be in the playoffs on penalty kicks is very tough,” MacArthur coach Andy Atkins said. “We ran into a tough team on a tough field in a tough environment.”
The eighth-seeded Big Red entered the postseason at 6-1-6 overall and 5-1-3 in Conference A-II after missing the playoffs last year. Glen Cove is aiming for its first county title since 2016 when it went unbeaten before falling to Amityville in the Long Island championship.
Glen Cove’s next step on its quest for a championship is set for Wednesday at top-seeded Jericho after press time. A win would advance the Big Red into the Class A semifinals Sunday at Farmingdale State.
“I want to keep going and I want to make it far,” Velasquez said. “It’s my last year and I want to make it count.”