By Tyler Andreas/Jackson Lions FC
On a sweltering hot Saturday evening matchup which required two mid-half water breaks, the
Lions found themselves paying a visit to a familiar opponent in FC Monmouth. The stands were
packed for this Jersey Shore Derby as fans were treated to some familiar faces on both sides of
the ball. In recent seasons the two clubs have found themselves in somewhat of a loan
agreement, with the Lions having sent five of their current players to Monmouth in order for
them to get experience playing at a higher level than they would come across in the GSSL’s
Super Division. Of those five players which also included Matt Fryc, Jacob Rubinstein,
Matthew Thorsheim, and Dave Nigro, there was always going to be one man set to stand out.
That man was Walter Calderon, Jackson’s talisman who only last season set Monmouth’s
all-time single season scoring record.
Monmouth fans were seen aching for times long passed as Calderon put in a top-class and man
of the match performance. His three goals and one assist were enough to leave the Monmouth
faithful throwing their hands in the air in concession, as Jackson’s traveling fans kicked back and
watched their team cruise to their first NPSL victory in convincing style.
The Lions dominated from start to finish. From the very first minute they looked to play direct,
with Calderon and Joel Quist taking turns dropping deep and running off the shoulder of the last
defender. By the 10th minute, Quist and Joey Zalinksy had established a clear dominance going
down Monmouth’s right flank, creating several shooting opportunities and forcing some smart
saves from Monmouth keeper Jake Nicoll who, despite the scoreline, put in quite the respectable
performance. It was clear as well that Calderon and Quist were instructed to put a focus on
playing off of each other, something that came up as a criticism from Wednesday’s match against
the Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals. Judging by today’s output, these two are well on their way
to sorting that out and have the potential for a prolific partnership.
Monmouth did show some promise early on, putting the pressure on the Lions backline by
dribbling straight at Fryc and Pizzimenti several times, and forcing some casual saves out of Jhan
Mayorga. Fryc was even goaded into a late tackle in the 20th minute which resulted in him
getting booked. The backline settled in soon enough though, and remained effectively
impassable for the entirety of the match.
Another key factor for Jackson today was the return of Nigro to the midfield after missing out on
Wednesday’s match outside of Philly. His experience, vision, and class were exactly what was
needed to execute head coach Brad Fraley’s counter-attacking game plan today. Too many times
to count, Nigro received, turned, and played an inch-perfect crossfield pass which unlocked
Monmouth’s defense. He was the link in transition, and he played the part to perfection. If it
weren’t for Calderon’s performance, he would have been considered for man of the match.
Before the match Fraley outlined his need for this exact type of performance when discussing
what changes he was looking to make coming out of Wednesday’s loss.
“We need to get back control of the middle of the park,” Fraley said. “If we can do that, penetrate
deep into the final third, it will go our way tonight.”
This direct approach Jackson looked to implement did not take long to begin to pay off as Quist,
after a smart first touch and turn inside the center circle, slipped Calderon in on goal. Calderon
gracefully chipped the ball over Nicoll who was left grasping for air as the ball rolled into the
back of the net in the 25th minute.
Quist and Calderon combined again in the 44th minute, and this time Calderon played the part of
provider. The goal allowed Jackson to go out into the second half looking to sit back and
capitalize on those mistakes and moments they learned about the hard way on Wednesday night.
This was nothing short of a professional performance from the NPSL new boys.
The second half was met with three substitutions. Junior Miranda replaced Matthew Thorsheim
for the Lions, while Johnny Hart and Daniel Ramm entered the fray for Monmouth.
Monmouth’s George Akampeke was also replaced early on when he went down injured in the
13th minute. Evan Walters was the man to take his place.
In the second half the Monmouth players looked like they came out with new instructions and
were ready to reset the tempo of the match. One issue they displayed in the first half was their
inability to play the vertical passes that would break through Jackson’s midfield lines. They
looked to counter this by pressing very high up the pitch early in the second half and winning the
ball in the attacking third, something that they did see some small moments of success with.
However, Jackson has two very experienced ball playing center halfs in Dan Pizzimenti and Matt
Fryc, and they dealt with the pressure brilliantly.
In the 55th minute, Monmouth’s Daniel Ramm smashed a free kick just over the bar, slightly
worrying Mayorga. However that seemed to be Monmouth’s last real chance to get back into the
match as three minutes later Quist was taken down on the left flank just outside of the penalty
box. Giuseppe Barone swept the free kick low and hard towards the penalty spot, where
Calderon was waiting to pounce and guide the ball into the far corner of the goal. Mussie Tesfay
was booked for the foul.
Monmouth refused to throw the towel, and kept fighting throughout the half. Head coach John
Killick tried changing it up with fresh legs first in the 66th minute with Sam Thombs being taken
off for Mason Martelloni after a slight knock. In the 74th minute Aniello Lubrano was replaced
by Mickael Rodriguez.
The Lions also made some changes in the 63rd minute with Andrew Gee and Kevin Kappock
entering the game. Nigro, Quist, and Enir Radoncic also made way for Rubinstein, Vincenzo
Pugliese, and Brandon Kolczynski in the 68th and 74th minutes. By this time the game, despite
Monmouth giving it their all, was effectively wrapped up.
Calderon wasn’t done quite yet. In the 85th minute, only just after a Monmouth corner resulted
in a mad scramble in front of the Lion’s goal, Calderon collected the ball about forty yards from
goal, picked his head up, and did the audacious by chipping Nicoll from nearly inside the center
After the game, assistant coach Conor Hansen was full of praise for Jackson’s main man.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, man of the match,” Hansen said. “Just an absolutely different
class. He is just a player that can create something out of absolutely nothing.”
When asked about whether the coaching staff expected this type of performance from Calderon,
Hansen said, “I mean, yeah. He was the top scorer when he played for them. He was one of the
top scorers in the nation, so we kind of expect it at this point.”
All in all, the Lions bounced back with aggression tonight and really proved to themselves and
their opponents that they belong at this level. If tonight was a preview for the rest of their NPSL
campaign, then there are some exciting times waiting.
Photos Courtesy of Jackson Lions FC