PLAINSBORO: O’Brien at center of Knights’ success

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Just before the soccer season began, Bennet O’Brien got some sound advice from a source close to home. He’s taken that advice to heart and made a big impact for the West Windsor-Plainsboro High North boys soccer team.
“At the beginning of the season, my Dad told me that I had two jobs in my position — to distribute and disrupt,” said O’Brien, the Knights’ center midfielder. “I have really taken that to heart. I try to get in the way of passes and get it to our guys and keep it away from theirs.”
O’Brien played his role well on Monday night, helping to make sure the ball got to the Knights’ talented forwards, who accounted for all three goals in a 3-2 win over WW-P South.
For O’Brien, playing in the center midfield and knowing forwards Josh Schupak and Vincenzo Pugliese are up top makes his job a whole lot of fun.
“It is great,” said O’Brien, who helped the Knights improve to 7-4 with the win over the Pirates. “Being in the middle you always know you have options, especially with our team with Josh and Vincenzo up top because you always know you have that long option because they can run with anybody.
“When you send them a good ball they are going to get to it and you know they are going to put it away.”
O’Brien isn’t the biggest player on the field and isn’t going to intimidate opponents with his physical presence. But when it comes to getting the job done, there is no one WW-P North coach Trevor Warner would rather have in that spot.
“When you look at him, physically he is outmatched almost all of the time,” Warner said. “But he gives everything of himself for us. He has a tremendous amount of fight in him. He’s not just a blue collar player. He knows how to play. He can pass the ball well. He assisted on our third goal. He can play. He gets the most out of himself and we would be a different team if we didn’t have him.”
In Monday’s win over South, Schupak and Pugliese scored first-half goals for a 2-0 lead and Schupak added another midway through the second half to make it 3-0. But the Pirates, who fell to 9-2-1 wouldn’t go away and closed to within 3-2 on goals by Matt Stein and Akul Agrawal. WW-P South bounced back with a 2-0 win over Lawrence on Tuesday to improve to 10-2-1 for the season.
“Those last 15 minutes they really came at us,” O’Brien said. “They really brought it. We were able to hold on and it was good.”
WW-P North’s dynamic duo of Schupak and Pugliese has combined to score 17 goals this season, while the rest of the Knights have scored seven goals combined. The offense, combined with a solid defense, has helped make the Knights formidable this season.
“Vedav (Varadarjan) out wide and Emilio (Guadarrama), they both have put in a couple of goals this season,” O’Brien said. “Sanka (Sarbadhikary) is also doing well on our attack. Our defense, with the four guys in the back or the three guys when we go to that formation, are rock solid. I would put them with anyone.
“Every year we try to go in with a positive attitude. This year a lot of us have played together from when we were real young. We have been playing since seventh grade and we have that chemistry that works well together on the field.”
And having a pair of scoring threats up top like the Knights do make them a tough team for anyone to handle.
“I can’t imagine going up against those two,” O’Brien said. “Even in practice it is terrifying. Having Josh back has been a huge help. With him and Vinnie up top you can’t double team one and leave the other open.”
Added Warner: “They are dangerous and they are both strong. We’re finally healthy. We’ve gone a long time without having every player to play. Sanka was out for a while. Chris St. Amour was out for a while. We were a little banged up. You want to be peaking at the right time.”
The win over South was the second straight for the Knights, who played to a scoreless tie against Steinert on Tuesday and are now 7-4-1 on the season.
“We had two different plans coming out for the second half,” Warner said after Monday’s win. “We knew they were going to bring the heat. It was just a matter of when. We had two up top and then they went to three up top and we had to adjust to that and went to one up top to try to defend them and we weren’t attacking.” 