Soccer Season Starts

Players from the Middlesex College men's soccer team at practice on March 18

The Middlesex College men’s soccer team faces Brookdale Community College at home in the first game of their season on April 5 at 3:30 p.m. 


The assistant coach for the MC men’s soccer team, Richard Catena, said Brookdale Community College is always a tough team. 


“Last year, we beat Brookdale 1-0 in overtime,” Catena said, “We scored on a penalty kick.” 


“They are one of the better schools, soccer-wise anyway, in our region…They always play tough, aggressive soccer,” Catena said. 


“For us, as a program, we can be that,” Catena said, “We have guys on the program right now (like) Andrew Solomon, a freshman who just came in, or Nicolas Garralfo, who is a second-year player, our sophomore forward. These guys can handle and can compete with that because it’s not that we don’t have the talent to compete with Brookdale. We do, and our hopes for this year is to understand how to play our head coach’s philosophy of playing, to understand that it’s not just kick and run.”


“We’re a pass-oriented team. We want to move the ball around, and we have guys that can do that,” Catena said. 


Javier Velasco, the team’s new head coach, said this game marked a change in the program. 


“We’re trying to change the culture, create an identity, (and) establish a play because we didn’t have any of that,” Velasco said. 


“Every game is going to be challenging,” Velasco said, “We’re a new team, and then we have many guys from the past. We have a young team, but I think our boys are ready to compete.”


Andrew Solomon, who plays as the College’s centre defensive midfield or centre attacking midfield, said the team is trying to increase the number of team training sessions as the game against Brookdale nears. 


“We’re trying to work on technique within those…training sessions,” Solomon said.


Jason Williams, the team’s returning centre-back, said he is focusing on drinking plenty of water, eating the right foods and working as hard as he can at every practice to ensure he is ready against Brookdale. 


The upcoming game against Brookdale will be the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began, prompting a myriad of new protocols.


Robert Edmonds, the College’s assistant athletic director, said, “Athletics is allowed to compete under strict COVID protocols that were submitted to the College and approved. These protocols are in line — and in our case, somewhat more strict — with the CDC and the Governor’s orders on college athletic participation. All visiting teams are also subject to the same protocols once coming on campus, along with protocols put out by our conference’s governing body.”


Catena said these protocols include temperature checks, wellness questionnaires, mask requirements for players, coaches and athletic staff, and shorter and less frequent practices. 


“Obviously, when we travel to games, there’s going to be COVID protocols in place that are within the region as well as within the school. We’re going to be going to games, getting temperature checks, having masks on, social distancing on the benches as well as with the coaches as well for those games. As far as having home games, it will be the same thing,” Catena said. 


“We’re very careful when it comes to COVID-19,” Velasco said. 


It appears that players’ masks may fall down during plays, but they pull them up as soon as possible.


Players said they weren’t letting the COVID-19 protocols affect their commitment and effort.


Claudio Lopez, a player on the MC men’s soccer team, said, “With the COVID restrictions, it’s a little bit more difficult because we have to wear masks at all times for our practices, but the program itself is really good. The coaching is very good. It’s like a league; it’s very competitive.”


Nicolas Garralfo, the team’s forward, said, “It’s just wearing masks. It’s still the same thing; it’s the same intensity. We’re working hard, trying to win for the season.”


“For this year, our biggest goal is for the kids to get some kind of normalcy back to playing,” Catena said. 


Williams said, “We’re just really playing soccer, just really trying to get to where we need to be so we can hopefully win some games.”


Edmonds said, “Being that all competitions are closed to the public, all of our games can be seen as they are now streamed out to the public.”


Spectators can livestream sports events or watch archived videos on the new MC athletics website:


Catena said fans should look forward to other upcoming games, including matchups against Union County College and Sussex Community College. 


“Another team that is going to be very tough for us is Rowan College in Gloucester County. They’re a very good team. They almost went to the regional final last year, but they lost to Sussex Community College. They’re a team that no one should take lightly,” Catena said. 


Players said they were excited to begin the season. 


“We’ve got a good core group of guys,” Lopez said, “We’re all on the same page. We want to win, and I think we’re trying our best to do it. No promises to win any championships, but if we can, we’ll definitely try to bring something.”


Garralfo said, “Just know our names because we’re going to do something big out there.”


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