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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The New Brunswick Zebras boys soccer team has continued to impress in GMC Red Division play thoughout the season, after making the jump up from the White Division this fall.
Their only losses have come from Monroe and Old Bridge, with hopes of claiming the division title still alive, and the Zebras are currently in second place behind Monroe.
The Zebras picked up another dramatic win over the East Brunswick Bears on October 6 after trailing 0-2 for the first 70 minutes of the game.
The Zebras scored in the second overtime period against the Bears in their first meeting, thanks to an Oscar Dominguez header. However, this time the Zebras were without their tough defender.
"I'm not going to lie, I was concerned," said Coach Castillo.
"I knew our boys came out flat today and it was going to take some time to string along some passes and take the shots that we did today and it came," the coach continued. "It was a lot of frustration today, it was the first time I saw my team like this."
"This is the first time we've been down 2-0 in any game and they showed that they can fight through adversity. It took a while, but I'm happy they we able to do so today."
East Brunswick started off the game strong and fundamentally sound. Good crisp passing and solid defending.
In the 17th minute, the Bears worked cohesively to penetrate the Zebra defense.
After a missed shot deflected off a Zebra defender, Max Lee found the ball at the top of the box and instantly drove a grounder to the left side of the goal past goalkeeper Dalber Inostroza. Bears 1-0.
The Bears began to utilize the availability of the left flank, nearly scoring on two more opportunities.
Sanket Jain sent a cross in for Sahil Patel, whose shot bounced off both goal posts, and a cross over to Samweal Mahrous whose shot was denied by Inostroza.
In the 27th minute, Mahrous took a free kick 40 yards out and connected with Jagath Ranaweera, who peeled away from the wall and headed in the Bears second goal. Bears 2-0.
Four minutes later, William Rojas had a fast break from midfield with little pressure on him, but managed to hit a shot which would also bounce off both goal posts.
In the second half, the Bears continued to deny midfielders Rojas and Kelvin Ortiz the ball with heavy defending, resulting in limited shots for the Zebras.
The Zebras learned to take away the open Flanks, but became vulnerable as the Bears were finding opportunities with the Zebras changing their formation to an offensive attack.
It seemed as though the Bears were too good defensively and would pull off an upset over New Brunswick as the Zebras struggled to find scoring chances.
In the 70th minute, Ortiz used fancy footwork to free himself on the left sideline from two defenders, delivering a cross which was headed in by Homer Melendez, cutting Bears' lead to 2-1.
Two minutes later, Rojas would draw in multiple defenders at the top of the box, next sending on a pass to Carlos Figueroa who banged it in on the right side, tying up the match at 2-2.
A huge momentum shift could be felt once the Zebras scored back to back goals to even the score. From this point on the Bears' attack weakened while the Zebras fought harder than before.
Moments later Patel found himself six yards away from goal, but his shot was saved with a critical save from Inostroza.
Unable to finish in regulation, the game headed to overtime with both teams appearing feel the pressure intensify.
In the 90th minute of play, Rojas delivered a free kick from the right flank 25 yards out to the center of the box. Bouncing off two Zebras before landing in front of Melendez, he quickly hooked his leg around the ball in mid air and slammed it home for the game-winning goal.
"I'm very proud of our team because we worked well. I'd first like to thank god for giving me the opportunity to score, and I just feel so excited and happy," said Melendez. "We practice hard and that's what allows us to win."
The Zebras went on to lose to Old Bridge 2-1 before improving their record with back-to-back wins over Piscataway and JP Stevens. The Zebras record is now 10-2-2.