For the first time in its 20-year history, the Southampton Soccer Club was represented in the upper echelon of the travel team world, fielding a boys U16 team in the prestigious Eastern New York Premier League.
In order to compete in the premier league, teams must have a strong showing in their regional league and apply to compete in the premier ranks. Last season, the team—dubbed the Southampton Strikers—went undefeated in Division I of the Long Island Junior Soccer League and also won the Long Island Cup. With those victories on its resume, the team was accepted into the Eastern New York Premier League this fall.
And they proved they belonged—the Strikers were the champions in their four-team league, going 3-1-2 on the season. The team includes players from the varsity squads at Southampton High School, East Hampton, Pierson, Hampton Bays and Mattituck.
East Quogue resident Andreas Lindberg coaches the team, along with assistant coach Gary Easlick. The pair coach and train all age groups within the Southampton Soccer Club, which puts several teams in the Long Island Junior Soccer League each year. Easlick is also the assistant coach of the Southampton High School varsity team, while Lindberg is the head coach of the C.W. Post men’s soccer team, which advanced to the elite eight of the NCAA Division II tournament this year.
Putting a team in the premier league was a goal of Lindberg’s for a long time, he explained, and he had an inkling that the current group of players would be the ones to do it, back when they were just 11 years old. When the team was accepted into the league this year, he said he knew they would hold their own.
“I knew the teams in the league and I thought we were right there,” he said. “I knew we’d be competitive.”
Lindberg said he felt the team was ready to play in the premier league a year ago, talent-wise, but said the squad needed another year to pull together the other elements involved in having a successful travel team.
“It’s a big commitment,” he said. “You have to increase the training; sometimes there are two games in a weekend, and you’re going to showcases and other tournaments, so it’s more money and more time. This team was five years in the making. And this time around, the parents and kids were into it.”
In a perfect world, Lindberg said, each town on the East End would be able to field its own premier league team. But he said, at least right now, there aren’t enough players of that caliber to make that a reality. But by bringing together some of the top players on the East End, the club put together a formidable squad. Jesse Scanlon, Gianluca Santacruz, Hunter West, Sebastian Pereira, Ryan Vasquez and Elijah Wingfield are all part of Southampton’s varsity squad; Andrew Wilson and Jorge Naula are East Hampton varsity players, and Naula played a significant role on East Hampton’s Class A state finalist team this year; Christian Loiaza, Kevin Castro and Dylan Flores are part of the Hampton Bays varsity team; Charlie Pintado is from Pierson’s varsity squad; and Dylan Wilsberg is a varsity player from Mattituck, which won the New York State Class B Championship this year.
“We had to get kids from other schools to share the same goal,” Lindberg said. “They want to take soccer seriously and play in college and make the commitment to do it.”
This weekend, the Strikers will play in a college showcase in Massapequa, which Lindberg described as the biggest showcase in the northeast. Hundreds of coaches will be there to scout players. Lindberg said he attends the showcase every year to look for players for his Post team, and that he’s happy to be going there as the coach of a youth team this year.
The Strikers will play another season in the premier league in the spring, and if they have a strong finish again, they will garner more invites to the elite showcases, giving the players the opportunity to be seen by college coaches again. Lindberg said it was a great debut season for his team, which played several of its home games—some under the lights—on Southampton’s varsity turf field, and Lindberg expressed his gratitude to Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips for making that possible.
Ultimately, Lindberg would like to see the Southampton Soccer Club put even more teams into the premier league, and continue the tradition that was started by this year’s squad.
When he wasn’t working with young players in the Southampton Soccer Club, Lindberg was busy coaching the LIU-Post (C.W. Post) men’s soccer team to its most successful postseason run in program history this year. The Pioneers finished with a 16-5-2 record, getting to the elite eight of the tournament, where they lost, 1-0, to top seed Charleston on November 22. Post beat Merrimack, 2-0, in the sweet 16 on November 20, giving the program its first ever east region championship and sending the team to the quarterfinals. But it was the victory before that, that was the most impressive one of the season. Playing on the road, the Pioneers upset Southern New Hampshire in dramatic fashion on November 15. Down 2-0 with 1:04 left in the game, the Pioneers scored two goals in a minute—including the equalizer with just 19 seconds left. The game ultimately went to penalty kicks, after two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods. Post prevailed, 6-5, in penalty kicks.
“It was the craziest soccer game I’ve ever been a part of,” Lindberg said.
Southampton High School graduate Matias Ruiz, who is a junior at Post, scored one of the penalty kicks goals for the Pioneers. Ruiz, a center midfielder, started in roughly 80 percent of Post’s games this year. He was named second-team all-conference this season and was nominated for all-region honors.