SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — The expectation for Tuesday’s match against Elizabeth was that Scotch Plains-Fanwood would face one of Union County’s best goalies in Youkendly Pacius. But Elizabeth’s starting goalkeeper shocked everyone when he came out of the goal and moved up to the attack in the second half, then proceeded to score both of the Minutemen’s goals in the Raiders’ 2-1 defeat.
With Scotch Plains-Fanwood clinging to a 1-0 lead entering the second half, Elizabeth followed through with its pre-determined plan to slide Pacius out of goal and onto the frontline. The move paid dividends, as the junior found the back of the net in the 57th minute to equalize the score, then finished a breakaway in the 77th minute by firing a strike past Aaron Schack that landed between the posts to give Elizabeth the 2-1 lead that proved to win the game.
“I will always be ready for everything,” Pacius told TAPinto.net. “My father is a goalie and a forward too, so I try to follow his footsteps and make him proud. Today I was really happy to play forward, because I always want to play them [Scotch Plains-Fanwood], and every time I play them, I’m in goal. I always say: ‘Coach, give me a chance to attack against them — I can prove to you I can score’. He gave it to me today, and I proved myself to him.”
According to Elizabeth head coach Joseph Cortico, the Pacius move was the game-plan entering the match.
“That was a decision we had made before the game,” Cortico said. “We’ve been trying him out a couple of times in different games, and he has the ability to move well with the ball and to strike it. We saved him for the second half, and we turned things around.”
Pacius’ first goal came on quite some controversy. Scotch Plains-Fanwood goalie Aaron Schack was issued a yellow card for leaving the box. As a result, Schack had to come out of the game, which resulted in Danny Coyle entering the net for the Raiders. Elizabeth took its penalty kick, and Pacius capitalized on the Raiders’ mishap by launching a strike past Coyle, up into the left corner of the goal.
“The call where they scored the first goal off of Schack being taken off the field is not a yellow card — we went through the entire rulebook,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Tom Breznitsky explained after the game. “It’s not a yellow card, it’s a foul and indirect free-kick from the spot where he came outside of the box. A thing like that, a missed call, turns the game around.”
While things went awry for Scotch Plains-Fanwood when Pacius was on the attack, everything was working in the Raiders’ favor when he was playing his normal position. In the 17th minute, Michael Ferrara gained possession of a shot that deflected of Elizabeth’s goalie and sent a perfect pass to the top of the six-box, which his brother Alex got a touch on and scored. Alex Ferrara’s strike hugged the ground and eluded a diving Pacius before cushioning the bottom left side of the net.
The Raiders were also the beneficiary of Elizabeth’s chippy play, as the Minutemen were issued 20 fouls and numerous yellow cards — the majority of which came in the first half.
“We played very, very well and did not deserve to lose the game,” coach Breznitsky said. “They [Elizabeth] had like 20 fouls; we had maybe five or six. But, you’ve got to deal with that with some of the teams that we play… I’m just a little disappointed that we didn’t do a better job of testing their second-string keeper.”
Elizabeth made no bones about celebrating their goals. After Pacius’ score, the Minutemen partook in a boisterous celebration right in front of the Raiders bench. Elizabeth received a yellow card for its shenanigans, but expressed remorse following the game.
“That celebration, I was really happy, but I didn’t mean to go over there and celebrate in front of them. That wasn’t my intention,” Pacius stated. “In my celebration, I was doing a cartwheel and a backflip, but everybody was coming to me, so the only way I had was going over there [to the Raiders’ bench]. That’s why I did it, but I didn’t want to do it in front of them. I apologize for that.”
Pacius recorded eight saves in the first half before handing over goalie duties to Nelson Capela, who stopped four Scotch Plains-Fanwood shots.
The Raiders will look to avenge Tuesday’s defeat and get back over .500 on Thursday, when they play host to rival Westfield. The game will take place at an unconventional start time of 2:00 p.m., as it is part of a boys-girls soccer doubleheader at Wexler Field.