Colts Neck Grad Leading Brookdale Soccer in Quest to National Championship
BY TIM MORRIS
Jairo Chira’s penchant for scoring goals helped change Colts Neck High School boys’ soccer. Colts Neck Head Coach Art Collier was always a disciple of defense first, but a prolific scorer like Chira helped Collier open things up and play a more aggressive game. That adjustment worked as Chira scored 15 goals and assisted on eight more in leading the Cougars to the Shore Conference B North Division championship last fall.
Now a freshman at Brookdale Community College, Chira has brought his magic to the Jersey Blues. The Colts Neck grad has deposited 11 goals in nine matches, ranking 14th in the nation amount Division III junior colleges. With his two assists, his 24 total points ranks 20th nationally. Included in those three goals were three game-winners. The striker has also been named the Garden State Athletic Conference Division III Player of the Week.
Brookdale Head Coach Brad Fraley knew he was getting an offensive powerhouse in Chira, but what has stood out the most is his physical dominance. He’s more than a scorer who has a nose for the ball and seems to always be in the right place.
“He’s very good with his back to the goal,” said Fraley. “He’s a really good finisher one-on-one. He seals defenders off with his strength, and he’s elusive.”
It’s the same dominance that Collier witnessed at Colts Neck.
“He’s tough to handle,” Collier said of Chira. “He’s hard to handle. He’s able to maintain possession when they try to foul him.” Collier added that Chira “can play at the next level,” and he’s proving it daily for the Blues.
Midfielder Mario Mozo (Fr., Red Bank Regional) has emerged as the complement to Chira with a goal and two assists. Freshman defender Brent Glanz, a high school teammate of Chira; sophomore forward Ajani Bruney (Mater Dei Prep); sophomore forward Alexander Roman (Jackson Memorial); sophomore midfielder Sandro Louis (Neptune); freshman midfielder Sam Pearlberg (Fox Soccer Academy, Brielle); and freshman midfielder Jose Rincon (Long Branch) are Brookdale’s other goal scorers. Fraley pointed out that spreading the scoring around has kept teams from totally focusing on Chira.
Louis and freshman midfielder Alejandro Cortes (Matawan) have multiple assists each.
Chira’s goal-scoring has helped the Blues tread water while they take time to gel as a team. Brookdale has just one returning starter, William LaBruno (Shore Regional), and a roster loaded with freshmen. Yet the Blues have managed to stay above .500, 6-5, and more importantly, are 5-2 in Region 19 play.
“They can play with anybody,” Fraley said of the Blues. “They’re very resilient, and they’re starting to come together as a team.”
Brookdale’s record is more impressive considering the team started the season without an experienced goalie.
“It has been goalie by committee,” said Fraley.
Still, Brookdale is only allowing 2.1 goals a game thanks to a solid defense. Four of BCC’s wins have been shutouts.
Glantz, LaBruno and freshman Chris Turchio (Monroe Township) have anchored a formidable backline. The Blues have had depth with freshman Victor Pessoa (Long Branch), freshman Roberto Santamaria-Herreros (Red Bank Regional) and sophomore Kenny Emerick (Howell).
Brookdale has used a trio of goalies. Freshman Mauel Delgado-Tlapa (Freehold Borough) has shared the position with field players, sophomore Daniel Vesely (Holmdel) and freshman Aidan Solomon (Manalapan).
Solomon has posted a pair of shutouts and Vesely, one. Vesely and Tlapa have also shared a clean sheet.
Fraley is not concerned about Brookdale’s overall record. The Blues have played a challenging out-of-Region schedule that including New York teams Suffolk and Nassau. It’s so that the Blues are tested come Region tournament time.
Having made the tournament final the last two seasons, Fraley believes this team can take that next step and get to the national championship tournament. Having a scorer like Chira could make the difference this time.