BRADFORD, Pa. — Saturday’s annual Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase between New York and Pennsylvania had those in attendance on the edge of their seats as New York outscored Pennsylvania 4-2.
The first half was electrifying at the start as both New York and Pennsylvania exploded to both ends of the field to net the first goal — with New York’s Kaleb Steward, of Randolph, drawing first blood at the seven-minute mark in the half to give the Empire State squad a 1-0 lead.
New York would go on to take six more shots in the first half and record four saves versus Pennsylvania’s nine shots and one save. The first half would end with New York holding a 1-0 lead.
During the second half, at the 51-minute mark, Steward struck again to give his team a 2-0 lead. However, things would not be comfortable for New York for too long as Pennsylvania’s Ryan Miller, from Bradford, netted a goal at the 65-minute mark to make it a 2-1 contest. Fourteen minutes after Miller’s goal, his teammate and fellow Bradford Owl, Colton Swanson, recorded a goal at the 79-minute mark — bringing the score at 2-2.
It didn’t take long for New York to answer Swanson’s goal as Micah Schilke, of Fillmore, scored to put the Empire State up by one with a 3-2 lead. At the 85-minute mark, New York would grow its lead to 4-2 for the rest of the match with a goal courtesy of Ellicottville’s Bryce Butler.
Defense was just as important as offense for New York, as Cuba-Rushford’s Trent Chamberlain made several sliding saves to stop Pennsylvania from a comeback.
New York’s head coach, Jamie Mullen, commended the efforts of both teams and told the Times Herald he was “fortunate to have an incredibly skilled bunch of kids.”
“A game like this when you’ve got great players, you just put them out there and you tell them to do what they do,” he said, offering much credit to the athletes.
He also praised the Pennsylvania squad and said, “I was impressed when they came back and tied it up at 2-2. That’s a critical moment for any team.”
Mullen believes both teams had a great second half, adding that his squad seized opportunities when they were presented.
He said, “I thought we played our best soccer after it was 2-2 and that’s when we really needed it the most.”
He added he enjoyed seeing players from both states come together and learn from each other.
For the team from the other side of the state border, Pennsylvania’s Rich Esposito explained that he was surprised that his squad didn’t score in the first half, adding that he thought the team had a “good offense”
“We just didn’t have a good first half, we didn’t keep the game simple enough,” he explained. “It surprised me that we were shut out the first half, I thought we had a good offensive team on the field but it just didn’t work out for us in the first half.”
Esposito added that some adjustments after the first half reminded him what his team was capable of.
He said, “When we got behind, we made some halftime adjustments and we had a better second half. We made the game simple; lots of short passes.”
The head coach also offered praise for the New York team.
“New York is a fast, physical team. It was great soccer, and I think the fans definitely enjoyed the game,” Esposito said. “I was pleased with the whole event from start to finish.”
The coach was impressed by how quickly his players built chemistry, he said he was impressed by “how well they could come onto the field with guys they have never played with a still play good soccer,” and said doing so is not easy.
“I’m glad they had the opportunity to do this. The next level is a grind, but the kids that are playing definitely have the work ethic and the mentality to play there,” he added, offering a kind word to those who played in this year’s game.
New York’s Steward said the game gave players a unique experience.
“It was a different experience, but amazing. Playing with the kids I play against in high school was phenomenal,” he said.
As for what lessons will resonate with him, “hard work and passion for the game” are at the top of the list.
“You just have to go out there and do what you can do to make things work,” he added.
His fellow Corporate Cup teammate, Chamberlain, said his plan was simple.
“Just play ‘D’ and don’t let them score,” he explained.
Chamberlain added that it “felt good to show off skills and work with great people” at the exclusive game and said he learned that passing and trust in teammates are key.