by Andrew Garda

Soccer is a funny game. Sometimes you can have a million good chances to score, when the field really feels like it’s tilted in your favor, but you just can’t finish until that one flukey bounce or random chance breaks the floodgates open.

Such was the case on a chilly Tuesday afternoon for the Montclair High School boys soccer team as it beat West Orange 3-0 to propel itself into the NJSIAA North 1, Group 4 championship game against No. 1 seeded Kearny.

The No. 3 seeded Mounties had plenty of early chances against the Mountaineers but couldn’t quite finish them. The Mounties entered halftime having dominated but remained tied with a scrappy West Orange team that just wouldn’t go away,

Then Declan O’Sullivan was dragged down in the box 11 minutes into the second half and everything changed. For head coach Toure Weaver, the reason for the change was simple.

“Somebody scored. Soccer is a weird game like that,” he said. “You can dominate a game but you need guys who are going to put the ball in the back of the net. It [has to do with] confidence also. Once you get a goal, you get it.”

The Mounties would strike again with just under 10 minutes left when defender Gordon Glenn shouldered a ball past the goaltender from the middle of a scrum off a Phillip Cubeddu corner kick. It wasn’t a beautiful score, but Weaver and his team were happy to have it.

“The second goal was ugly but we’ll take it just the same as we’ll take pretty goals. Both are worth one point,” Weaver said with a laugh.

Mountie forward DeClan O'Sullivan slides but just misses a pass during MHS' 1-0 NJSIAA victory over Union City.
Mountie forward DeClan O'Sullivan slides but just misses a pass during MHS' 1-0 NJSIAA victory over Union City.

Then Chris Masur sealed the win with 4:49 left in regulation when he buried a rebound into an empty net to make it 3-0.

Overall it was a very solid effort by a team that’s still a bit stung from an early exit from the Essex County tournament.

“From the start I thought we kind of had control of the game,” Weaver said. “We knew where they were strong, the set pieces they were pretty good at. The counter attacks they were good at. We talked [at halftime] about positioning when they counter, how [West Orange wasn’t] attacking us in a way that was going to get chances for them. I thought everybody was on the same page. We got injuries but guys stepped up. Everybody is pulling together and we got some momentum going.”

One of the key injuries took place prior to the game, as Salvador Pliego was not available. Despite that, the Mounties defense didn’t miss a beat and stymied the Mountaineers at nearly every turn, keeping keeper Rowan O’Brien from having to carry the weight of too many shots while the score was even.

“Not having Salvador, most teams — he’s such a good player that it’s a huge void,” Weaver said. “But then, [Gordon] Glenn was our starting center-back most of the season until he went out with an injury. He wasn’t starting when he came back, not because of a lack of ability. It was because the back line was meshing so well. When Salvador went down, it’s an easy solution because Glenn is a great player also. On most teams he’s not coming off the field. It was just the way things worked out for us but I’ve total confidence in him at that center-back spot also.”

Montclair faces Kearny on the road Friday at 2 p.m., with the winner moving on to the Group IV semifinals Tuesday, which will be played at a neutral site to be announced.