The Jericho Arsenal U17 squad did their best impression of Arsenal F.C. this year. The squad, made up of high school students from the area, dominated the Long Island Junior Soccer League.
Led by head coach Steve Lefkowitz and trainer Dani Braga, the Jericho group went undefeated during the regular season. As the playoffs progressed, the Arsenal team was determined to capture back-to-back championships.
They headed to Stony Brook University on June 15 and 16, advancing to the Long Island Cup against the Wantagh Seaford Tsunami, a squad that also went undefeated during the regular season.
“The motif all season was to repeat,” Lefkowitz said. “We had the opportunity to do something special and win it two years in a row.”
When they took to the field, Arensal was determined to defeat the Tsunami. At the half, Jericho led 1-0. However, come the second half, a scoring brigade broke out. To top it off, Wantagh Seaford actually scored in their own goal, capping off a 5-0 win to seal the deal for Arensal’s second straight Long Island Cup trophy.
“These kids were on a mission from day one,” Lefkowitz said. “It was a pretty exciting experience.”
Throughout the final match, Austin Brown scored a pair of goals, with Jordan Miller and Max Kluzek each scoring as well. While a win is a win, as the saying goes, this was more than that. Throughout the two days of competition, 35 of 65 matches were decided by just one goal, with 52 games having a two-goal margin of victory.
For the Jericho squad to win the Long Island Cup by such a large margin shows the true capability of this group, Lefkowitz and Braga explained.
With another title in the books, Braga believes there is more to come. He also serves as the head coach of the Jericho High School varsity soccer team, so he knows exactly what these kids are made of.
“The kids grow up together,” Braga, who led Jericho High School to three straight county titles, said. “They’re childhood friends. You’re part of the puzzle with them. It’s fun to see these kids grow up as they reach young adulthood. They’re part of your extended family.”
While the titles are great, Braga believes there is more to come from this group.
“As the pinnacle, I want to be there when they graduate high school,” he said. “I want us to win the state championship. I think there’s more out there in terms of championships.”