by Andrew Garda

FORTUNATO FIELD — The 2019 boys soccer season got off to a rough start for the Montclair High School Mounties, as they fell 1-0 to rival Seton Hall Prep at Fortunato Field on Wednesday, Sept 4.

Both teams showed a ton of skill and determination, but throughout the game, the Pirates seemed a step ahead of the Mounties.

“I thought we were reactionary,” head coach Toure Weaver said after the loss. “I don’t think we brought it to them. We were, like, a step behind in defending, on 50-50 balls, and even the attackers took the transitions too long. We’d get the ball, and then were kind of scared to step up into the attack, give supporting runs and give good angles. It was just took too long to do that.”

While the Mounties lost a lot of talent to 2019 graduation, the reality is this team still has plenty of talent. The game was close, and MHS had two big chances to tie the score, once with a missed shot on a crossed ball in front of the net and another on a header that ended up right in the SHP goaltender’s arms.

Montclair can clearly create chances – now they have to learn to finish them.

“One goal makes a huge difference,” Weaver said. “One goal, you’re back in it, and the guys have got another round of energy. But that’s the way the game goes. We just have to create more opportunities so we get lots of chances but then also somebody has to step up and be the one to put it in the back of the net.”

The Mounties don’t have any time to rest and reflect though, as they have a game on the road against Livingston on Friday.

“[After the game] we talked about how I don’t think we played with the intensity that’s expected,” said Weaver. “There were individual efforts, but it has to be a lot more than it was today. And Livingston’s no walk-over. They’re well coached, they’re organized. They may not have as much talent [as SHP], but they defend well and they find their opportunities on set pieces and stuff so we’ve got to recover tomorrow and be ready to go Friday.”

All things considered, the opening loss to Seton Hall Prep, while disappointing, wasn’t a disaster. After being swept last season, including in the Essex County Tournament finals, the Pirates were amped up for revenge. It was a game which they were laser focused on.

A 1-0 loss isn’t ideal, but if the Mounties can stand toe to toe with a very determined and intense SHP team and only lose by one goal, they can play with anyone.

“We still have everything we want to get this season is still on the plate,” said Weaver. “It’s a good wake-up call. Now, we can’t expect things to change just because they change. We, as a team, as a coaching staff as players, we need to make that decision to make some changes, bring more energy and step up our training sessions.”

The Mounties put a massive target on their backs with their tremendous 2018 season. Weaver said the squad is well aware that winning the division, the ECT and fighting their way into the state finals will make this season even more challenging.

But he also believes they are up to that challenge.

“I just think we played hesitant today. Losing 1-0, for the way that we played, I know we have more left in the tank. Hopefully, we’ll see [Seton Hall Prep] again and be peaking by that time and playing better soccer the way we know we can play.”