FREEDOM PLAINS – In those moments of candor, Jared Sanborn will admit that his team has surprised even him.
Arlington long has been among the better boys soccer programs in the area ― often able to rebuild almost seamlessly ― but there was some doubt, even internally, about how this group would fair.
The roster would be a blend of up-and-comers with seniors, most of whom hadn’t received significant playing time in previous years. This, essentially, would be a cluster of unknowns.
“I was concerned about us scoring goals,” said Jared Sanborn, a senior. “The build-up play on offense, I didn’t think we had that.”
They didn’t know exactly what they had in this midfield line and how well Michael Cocca would adjust to the “10” position. They also didn’t know how much of a revelation Robert Sherman would be at striker.
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That tandem continued to spark the offense and the Admirals continued to build steam with a 3-1 win over visiting Roy C. Ketcham on Wednesday.
“My midfield has been playing me good balls and a lot of the credit goes to them,” said Sherman, who scored twice in the first eight minutes. “The defense has been keeping us in games, so we’re not playing from behind a lot. The Chemistry is crazy and we’re moving.”
What it means
Arlington has won six straight since a 1-0 loss to Powerhouse Scarsdale, and that run included five consecutive shutouts with signature wins over John Jay-East Fishkill and Mamaroneck. The team has answered those offseason questions in the affirmative and nudged itself, legitimately, into discussions of the Section 1 title contenders.
“Our team at the beginning was not there, but we’ve gained chemistry and we’ve started to look pretty good,” said Jared Sanborn, one of the defensive anchors. “We’re playing well, and we’ve continuously gotten better.”
Cocca, who was among their leading scorers last season, was moved from forward to the midfield earlier this month. The shift allowed them to take advantage of his skills as a ball-handler and facilitator, and help create better spacing for Sherman, who is enjoying a breakout season as their go-to finisher.
“He’s able to create everything from there,” Jared Sanborn said of Cocca. “His movement is amazing and his left foot is something else.”
Sherman put Arlington on the board 4:52 seconds into the match, rebounding a corner kick beyond the right post and lifting a shot that sailed just above the heads of two teammates and the goalkeeper’s hands to find the far corner.
“It was a little bit of skill and some luck,” the junior said with a grin.
They tallied again three minutes later, firing into the left corner after being played a ball from Cocca as he raced up the flank.
Ryan Zindler knocked in a header off a rebound for Ketcham with 6:41 left in the first half, but Arlington didn’t otherwise allow much pressure inside its defensive third. Daniel DeBonis scored off a feed from Cocca with 1:18 remaining to create the margin.
Sanborn along with Alex Sturans, Scott Buttinger and center back Christian Lasek, anchored the defense that yielded only four shots and no corner kicks.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” Jared Sanborn said. “(The shutouts) aren’t something we celebrate, but we definitely acknowledge it and it’s motivation to keep going.”
Player of the Game
Sherman scoring twice in the opening minutes allowed Arlington to take control almost immediately, and it alleviated some pressure in this rivalry game.
All wins are important, Sherman said, but beating Ketcham is “extra” because he’s got several friends on that team to whom he wants bragging rights.
The first goal was scored with his back turned almost completely from the goal, while retrieving a corner kick that went a bit wide, demonstrating his ability to put the ball on frame even at difficult angles.
“He’s a strong kid with good size, can hold people off and he’s a really good finisher,” Coach Craig Sanborn said of Sherman.
By the numbers
Ketcham (4-3-1) ― Ervin Cruz Rubio made three saves and Tommy Cornelius had a defensive save in the fourth minute.
Arlington (9-2) ― DeBonis had a goal and an assist and Ben Marks made three saves.
Ketcham visits Mahopac at 5 pm Saturday. Arlington hosts Carmel at 4:15 pm Tuesday.
“We knew we had skill on the team, but we didn’t know what to expect,” Sherman said. “But we’re a bunch of friends, so I knew the chemistry wouldn’t take long to (develop).”
“Before the season, would I have said we’d have nine wins in our first 11? Probably not,” Craig Sanborn said. “I’m really proud of the way they’ve stepped up; they’re doing a solid job defensively and overall… There’s room for improvement because we can still get sloppy with the ball at times. Too many turnovers. As we continue to clean that up, we’ll be more dangerous.”