By PAUL GOTHAM
Nelson Cupello caught a glimpse of Tribune magic past.
With the seconds ticking down in Saturday’s NJCAA match, freshman goalkeeper Michael Hunter sprinted the length of the field. Along the right wing, Sulamane Sey hurriedly grabbed the ball and launched a corner kick. Hunter flashed into the opposing 18-yard box and redirected the cross with a header that sailed just over the frame as the final horn sounded.
“Oh my God, it was Fernando all over again,” Cupello said. “That reminded me of the year we went to the nationals in 2012. We were playing in the District finals and were down 2-1 with less than a minute left in the game, so I pulled everybody up.”
Then goalkeeper, Fernando Mesa, found the back of the net with a header. Monroe went on to win that match in penalty kicks and clinch a spot in the national tournament.
Saturday’s effort came as close as Hunter’s last-second attempt which looked good at contact.
“We’ve got that potential,” the 29th-year coach said comparing his current squad to that of 2012 club. “We’re a good team and it’s just a matter of putting it together.”
Hunter made four sparkling saves in the first half, but MCC fell 1-0 to the ASA College Avengers. The Tribunes are winless in their first three matches of the season.
“We gotten better from the first day to today,” Cupello noted. “We showed some emotion. I think we’ll be okay.”
Hunter, the starting goalkeeper for the 2016 World of Inquiry squad which advanced to the NYSPHSAA Class C state final, stopped Addoulaye Diallo in the open field late in the first half. On the ensuing corner kick, he went airborne to turn away Yan Aragao‘s header. Moments later Hunter stopped another ASA corner kick attempt.
Victor Oluwaseum, though, converted a Daniel Augusto corner kick in the 80th minute for the lone goal on the afternoon.
“We had two or three opportunities ourselves,” Cupello noted. ” I often tell these guys you may only get one good look at the goal, and you go to put it away because it’s going to come back and haunt you, and it did. We had so many good chances I thought, good looks.”
Mewah Nyeayea had Monroe’s first chance in the contest’s 10th minute. Twelve minutes later, Charlie Welling tried to go far post with an Andriy Demydiv cross but his shot sailed just wide. Ryan Gray had a shot on net midway through the second half off a restart, and moments later Matthew Englert‘s header was just off frame.
Demydiv created a series of opportunities for the Tribunes. The imposing forward with impressive foot speed drew two yellow cards from opponents looking to slow him in the open field.
“His effort is good,” Cupello said of the former Webster Schroeder High star. “He’s 6-foot-3 and he’s got to understand once he gets the ball and plays it, he’s got to get himself in the box. We need his presence in the box. A foul is committed, he wants to take the free kick instead of being in the box where he is going challenge. These are all freshmen mistakes.
“Come November hopefully we’re going to play these guys in the districts,” Cupello said glancing in the direction of his opponent’s bench. “We’ll have everything figured out and be okay.”
Monroe plays its next eight matches on the road. The Tribunes play the St. John Fisher JV squad Wednesday night.
MCC returns home on Saturday, October 7th against Community College of Rhode Island. A 1:30 p.m. kickoff is scheduled.