Montclair Kimberley head boys soccer coach Robert Leather and a gang from the 2023 Cougars soccer team know where they will be on Friday.
Leather and the Cougars will be in Hoboken to see one of the top MKA soccer players in the last few years have his first taste of college soccer.
Montclair Kimberley graduated senior Omar Martinez is ready for his next stage of school and play on the pitch. The last two seasons Martinez was All Super Essex Conference first team honoree.
Martinez, the top striker for the Cougars boys soccer team the last couple of years, will bring his scoring prowess to one of the top NCAA Division 3 programs in the country in Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Cougars striker led the team in goals with 11 last fall despite missing some time with an injury, but he is hoping to bolster an already quality Ducks program that finished third last season in the NCAA Division 3 tournament. Stevens lost to University of Chicago in the NCAA Division 3 tournament semifinals. Chicago would go on to win the NCAA Division 3 title.
The incoming freshman at Stevens Institute will be ready for his first game starting Sept. 1 against Manhattanville College.
And what does Leather think Martinez will do at the next level.
“Omar will relish the challenge of playing at the collegiate level,” said Leather. “He was a four-year starter for us and never had issues against older players. Furthermore, he often played up on club teams.”
Leather shared the attributes Omar brings to college soccer.
“His game is built on creativity, raw pace and athleticism,” the MKA head coach said. “He is perfectly suited to making a massive dent in the collegiate game where he will be able to match an opponent’s athleticism off the bat.”
Stevens Institute head coach Dale Jordan said Martinez’s intangibles, especially his ‘incredible character’ and ‘work ethic’ drew him to them as well as his work on the field.
“On the pitch Omar has pace, athleticism and the ability to beat defenders on the dribble,” said Jordan. “These are key factors we require from our attacking players. We are extremely excited to have Omar in our program and look forward to seeing how he will progress as a student athlete at Stevens.”
The Ducks head coach said Martinez is expected to be an attacking wide player on either wing.
“The amount that Omar will contribute will be from his preparation over the summer and how well he adapts to our level and standards in our program,” said Jordan.
With Montclair Kimberley behind him, Martinez remembers fondly one specific match that came in his junior season where the Cougars took home the Prep B Tournament title with a 3-2 victory at Gill St. Bernard’s.
What is amazing is that Martinez did not score a goal but assisted on all three of the MKA goals. It was a come-from-behind victory for Martinez and the Cougars.
“That game will be with me forever,” said the Montclair Kimberley graduate. “The fear, the anxiety, the passion, and the joy. Now that’s why I play the game.”
The former MKA striker remembers the particulars of the match very well.
“We went down 2-0 in the first half to Gill St Bernard’s and it looked like the game was over,” added Martinez. “But as a team we clawed our way back to a second half comeback to make it 2-2 and in the second half of overtime we broke them down again and got the game winner from Koome Murungi.”
Personally, he points to a tough 3-2 loss at home to powerhouse Seton Hall Prep last fall that he felt was his top played game.
“Seton Hall Prep is one of the best schools in the state and it’s always a challenge against them but MKA always seems to strive and push Seton Hall Prep to their limits,” said Martinez, who gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead against the Pirates. “I made the defenders have a hard time with marking me, creating chances, and we got first blood early on in the game with a great pass from my co-captain Julian Coviello to me.”
The MKA graduate said he looked at several colleges ranging from the big schools in NCAA Division 1 to the smaller colleges in Division 3 including big school powerhouse University of Virginia to American University (Washington D.C.), Drexel University (Philadelphia) and locally Montclair State University.
“For me, Stevens was a great place, Hoboken is a beautiful area with great scenery and a sense of community because of its size,” said Martinez. “But what really pulled me into the school was the coaching staff and the players. I know some of the players from playing club before, so I knew they were some great guys at Stevens.”