The Cougars are right there.
Cranford boys’ soccer is seeking its first winning season since the magical 2009 campaign that saw a final 20-0-3 record include the program’s only Union County Tournament championship.
Heading into this week’s action, Cranford sports a 2-3 record that began with two wins. All five matches were decided by one goal.
“We really got off to a competitive start after struggling the last couple of years,” said fifth-year head coach Greg Campbell.
Cranford has not produced more than four wins the last three seasons and has had double-digit losses the last six.
The Cougars opened with a 2-1 win at Nutley Sept. 8 and followed that up two days later with a 2-1 home triumph over Plainfield. Senior forward Addison Chang scored the game-winning goal against Nutley in double overtime and then scored again in the Plainfield win. Brian Oliveira scored Cranford’s other goal vs. Nutley and Dylan DePuy had the other Cougar goal against Plainfield.
Junior goalkeeper Andrew Rojo made five saves to earn the win in net vs. Nutley. Rojo and Michael Carracino were credited with assists.
Rojo and Carracino, a sophomore center-midfielder, are two of Cranford’s six returning starters. The other four are senior back Tom Curry, senior center-midfielder Matt Perino, and senior forwards Trey Pascual and Chang.
Cranford’s three results after opening with two wins were 1-0 losses at home to Union County Conference-Mountain Division foes Johnson and Summit and a 2-1 loss at non-division opponent Elizabeth.
“It was disappointing to lose those three matches by one goal,” said Campbell, who was an assistant to head coach Mike Curci at Cranford for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. “We felt that we controlled the Johnson and Summit games. We had 23 shots against Johnson, but couldn’t put one in the net.”
Cranford is scheduled to host Governor Livingston Sept. 20, play at Union Sept. 22 and host Linden Sept. 29. The October portion of its schedule begins with Mountain Division matches at Johnson Oct. 4 and at Summit Oct. 6.
The UCC’s Mountain Division consists of Cranford, Johnson, Summit, GL and Linden.
“We have a lot more experience this year, so we expect to play a higher quality of soccer and be more aggressive,” Campbell said.
Cranford’s captains include Rojo, Perino and Curry. Rojo began on the junior varsity team his freshman year two years ago and was then bumped up to a varsity starter that season. Perino and Curry are two-year starters, with this being Perino’s third year total on the varsity.
“Andrew is really aggressive in goal and good on his feet,” Campbell said. “He has a great command of the box and when he calls for the ball he goes out and gets it.
“Matt, we like him there in the midfield. He’s a ball-winner. He’s had a bunch of chances so far this year, so he’s chomping at the bit right now.
“Tom is one of our most encouraging and vocal players in the back. He’s done a nice job.”
Other upcoming October matches include Brearley home Oct. 11, at Linden Oct. 18, at Colonia Oct. 22 (10 a.m.), at GL Oct. 25 and Rahway home Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Field.
Campbell is a 2001 Rahway graduate who played there for head coach Bob McNulty. Campbell also played club soccer at Rutgers’ main campus in New Brunswick.
“I like the direction the program is going,” Campbell said.
The Cougars are right there.