Sunday’s home finale couldn’t have gone any better for Kingston Stockade FC, which earned a 4-0 win over Seacoast United Mariners in front of a record-setting crowd of 936. After a difficult mid-season stretch, Stockade has won two of their last three, and the team is hoping to carry that momentum into a pair of National Premier Soccer League season-ending road games this weekend.
Cloud cover didn’t keep the heat off the field at Dietz Stadium on Sunday, and as temperatures rose on the thermometer, the Kingston side got hotter. The two teams played it tight through most of the first half, though the signs were there for a Stockade breakout. The club’s late first-half determination led to a 1-0 lead at intermission after a second-effort shot by Dylan Williams off a corner kick was deflected in by a defender.
Kingston Coach George Vizvary said the team’s struggle to find its rhythm in the first half was, in part, down to a losing attitude.
“After a couple of losing games, it becomes part of your life, and it’s very difficult to climb out of it and say, ‘Is this who I am? No, we are a winning team,’” he said. “And it took a while today in the first half. We were lethargic, we didn’t challenge the ball, didn’t have shot on goal. And a few choice words at halftime is always very helpful for the morale and the attitude and the success of the team. And it worked.”
Though they’d made some deep runs in the first half, Stockade’s offensive flow intensified in the second half, with the floodgates opening at the 75th minute as Anthony Barone sent a mid-air cross from Joe Bogart into the back of the net.
After that, it was the Patrick Alvarez show.
Alvarez, who came on in the 81st minute with something to prove, had an immediate impact, racing up the right sideline on every opportunity. At 87 minutes in, an Alvarez cross was deflected in by a Seacoast defender. And just three minutes later, Barone sent a perfectly placed flick over the defense to a sprinting Alvarez, who curled the ball into the near post top corner from 20-yards out, a rocket that would have been a tough stop for world-renowned goalkeepers. Even as the beleaguered Seacoast keeper kicked the ball toward the stands in frustration, Alvarez was racing back toward the bench toward Vizvary.
“Patrick always had this incredible winning attitude,” said Vizvary. “Unfortunately, time after time, he could not put it on the table. I have been criticized often, ‘Why not Patrick? Why not this, why not that?’ I am not here to please the players; I am here to build a winning team. And Patrick today, the last 20 minutes, came on like a bat out of hell. And my question was, ‘Where did you hide this before?’ Did you see him running at me and tell me, ‘I told you so! I told you so!’ Talk is very cheap. Show me. And he did it. I’m so happy for him.”
After the game, Alvarez spoke about how important it was for him to make the most of his time in the game.
“I had a lot of ups and downs this season, injuries, shin-splints and coming back from it I lost my starting spot and I wanted it back,” he said. “At the same time, I support my teammates out there on and off the field. But when you get that chance to shine again, you’ve got to take it. 10 minutes, two goals? I’m happy.”
Also happy was Dennis Crowley, the team’s chairman.
“I’m sitting here on the sideline watching Patrick hustle like holy hell down the field and just rip it,” Crowley said. “That was incredible. That’s straight out of ESPN highlights.”
While the offense was lighting it up in the second half, much of the team’s success against the Mariners was also down to a very stingy defense, led by goalkeeper David Giddings and back four Bogart, Phil Barrett, Jeff Paine and team captain Jamal Lis-Simmons.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Giddings said. “You feel like you’ve put in a complete performance coming away with no goals. There’s no feeling like it. I like to be as vocal as I can to limit the amount of saves I’ll have to make, but once in a while it comes through, and I was able to make saves today.”
With the win, Kingston improved to 5-7-2 on the season, good for 17 points in the crowded middle of the NPSL’s Atlantic Conference table. With two games remaining, the team is still mathematically able to leap from sixth place to third at the end of the regular season. Only Boston City FC (29 points) and the New York Cosmos B (34 points) are out of reach. Stockade will finish the season on the road, visiting the New York Athletic Club on Saturday, July 9 and the New York Cosmos B on Sunday, July 10.
“It’s always very difficult to play a Saturday-Sunday,” said Vizvary. “Only in America it happens. The first game is going to be at full power. The second is going to be against the best team of the league, and let’s see what we have in us, and how we are going to challenge them and become an equal on the field with them. It is to be seen.”
If the team can bring their second-half electricity — and some of the fans from Dietz — into the weekend, it could go a long way to finishing their inaugural season on a winning streak.
“Our focus is to finish out the season just as strong as we started it,” said Alvarez. “We lost our way a little bit in the middle, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We’re looking for two W’s, especially against the Cosmos. I’m looking forward to it.”