Friday, 18 September 2009 00:00
Entering his 13th season as the boys soccer coach at Mineola, Paul Pereira looks to welcome a record sixth consecutive playoff berth and ninth overall. The rebirth of the program has brought notoriety to the school and select placement in one of Nassau County’s top conferences.
Each year, the Mustangs fine tune a core group of individuals around a singular presence and develop bench strength without the pressure of a “win at all costs” regular season. The task in 2009 is no different for the Mustangs.
After a State Final Four in 2005 and a trip to the County Finals the following year, Pereira believes it is time for the Mustangs to revisit life on the Hofstra turf.
The Mustangs have developed a pedigree of All-County/All-State players over the past few years. Following in the footsteps of Gustavo Dias, Michael Marques and Nuno Rodgriques, the mantel of Mustang tradition has now been handed to Christian Lird.
Lird’s freshman season elicited excellent promise and is the key to the offense in 2009. Building on an All-Conference selection and a member of the elite Albertson Academy premier program, Christian leads seven returning starters including three fellow sophomores and two juniors.
Speedy junior Marco Oliveira will be the primary beneficiary of open opportunities as one of Pereira’s “soccer fanatics.” Senior Italo Amorim shares the forward spot and will be counted on for both goals and leadership this season. The defense is anchored by a pair of sophomores, Dan Mueller and Denis Lazo-Cruz, who bring a smart but physical style to a backline that suffers the most attrition due to graduation. Juniors Joe Lee and Vinny Carvalho will see significant playing time and will have an immediate impact. Experience comes from netminders Filipe Ribeiro and Bryan Lopes. Both keepers have strong resumes and will battle it out for the starting spot, but the Mustangs will have a capable backup either way. Quality minutes come from a strong supporting cast including Joe Dores, Andre Eusebio, Nick Ricciardi, Fred Mueller, Ricardo Magalhaes, Danny McAree and James Pastoressa.
The roster consists of a team that is high on soccer knowledge and hungry to add to the Mineola legacy. The group needs to avoid injuries, manage a steep learning curve and play together even if players find themselves out of their normal position. Should they follow this script, the potential is limitless.
The Mustangs will not be the conference favorite (this distinction falls to Jericho and potential layer of the year Adam Seiden) and should use the 11th Annual Mustang Cup to ease into the Conference ABC-I schedule. Mineola will look to avenge last year’s playoff loss to Valley Stream South, the new conference entrant, and faces stiff challenges from the aforementioned Jayhawks and perennial playoff contender Cold Spring Harbor.
Al Cavaluzzo joins Pereira as a varsity assistant for another year while Pete Blum pilots the JV team. Continuity reigns as Cavaluzzo has teamed with Pereira for over a decade while Blum played for Pereira during his early years as a Carle Place Middle School coach in the mid-1990s. Pereira is second all-time in school history with his 105 victories, trailing Frank Carbone’s record of 146 compiled between 1964 and 1983. Adding to his tally should not be difficult if the season follows the usual pattern. That means a deep ride into the playoffs come October.