Over the off-season Freeport found an out-of-the-box solution. Literally.
Coming off a benchmark spring that saw the Red Devils return to postseason play for the first time in four seasons, Freeport liked its prospects for fall in Nassau AA boys’ soccer. Aside, that is, from one slight hitch: entering camp in summer, the Red Devils hadn’t a goalkeeper.
Stepping into a goalie’s box for the first time ever at a high school practice, along came senior newcomer Gilbert Rosario – forgoing a third season of varsity football – to claim the vacancy as a twelfth-grade rookie.
For both parties concerned, the bold decision appears to have been a sound one. Backed by Rosario’s league-leading 34 saves, All-Conference midfielder Cesar Castro’s conference-leading four goals, and fellow senior Tyree Baskin’s second-leading five points on two goals and three assists, Freeport has bolted to 3-0-1 to sit atop the AA standings, sitting second in the conference in both goals scored (nine) and goals allowed (three).
“We’re happy with our start, but not satisfied,” said third-year coach Craig Klasson. “We know every game this year will be a battle. But it’s nice to see Gilbert working out as we thought he could. It has really helped our defense having a new goalie who’s aggressive, who comes out of the box. But the whole team worked hard to get us in this position.”
Breaking out on the season with a pair of goals in Freeport’s 4-1 win at home against Hicksville Sept. 18 was All-County striker Josue Villeda. After leading the team with nine goals in spring, the second year-starting senior was named one of Long Island Newsday’s Top 100 boys’ soccer players, and alongside Castro and Baskin heads the Red Devis’ attack.
“Josue is an explosive player,” Klasson said. “We rely on his ball skills and his nose for the goal up top. Ceasar Castro is out there to control the middle for us, but he’s also a scoring threat and a team leader. Tyree has shown that he’s a very dangerous forward. And these guys have become a strong unit.”
Easing Rosario’s baptism of fire into the sport have been All-Conference center back Dillon DeBourg (senior) and fellow second-year starter Jean Mejia, a sophomore midfielder. “Dillon is a great leader on and off the field,” Klasson said. “He’s been very instrumental for us. Jean Mejia stands out for his energy and skill. He’s a dynamic midfielder.”
Through four games, Freeport has yet to allow an opponent to score twice. Though defense, per se, wasn’t stressed in camp, Klasson said Freeport’s proficiency at ball-control can be traced to its summer regimen. “We pride ourselves on not conceding any goals,” Klasson said. “We worked hard as a group, through lots of repetition, to come out ready and unified. We're ahead of where we’ve started in the past, already in good condition.”
Concluded Klasson: “This team has matured. They’re seasoned. They’ve put in the work. If we stay focused, I think we’re ready to take the next step.”