Revenge at Red Bull: Raiders Upset Rival Westfield 1-0


Anthony Malta, Editor-in-Chief

  Last October, the Westfield Blue Devils bested Scotch Plains-Fanwood Soccer 1-0 under the lights of Artur L. Johnson High School, winning the Union County Tournament. This time, the scoreboard was flipped in favor of the Raiders ⎯ under the lights of Red Bull Stadium instead.

  September 22 marked the date of SPF and Westfield’s highly anticipated matchup in Red Bull Stadium, a game holding far more meaning than just its location. The Blue Devils were 3-0 against the Raiders last season and were ranked number four in the state heading into the contest. 

  “Going into the game, we all remembered last year,” senior captain Gio Marra told The Fanscotian. “So we knew we needed to get them back, and there wasn’t really a better place to do that.”

  Early on, both teams struggled to get anything going offensively and there was lockdown defense on both sides. As the first half progressed, SPF edged Westfield on the offensive side, putting the Blue Devils on their heels with high pressure. 

  The growing tension and excitement in the stadium exploded for Scotch Plains in the 27th minute, when senior Patrick Watt struck a shot through the goalie’s legs. In a game between two elite teams, the goal, which gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead, shifted the momentum greatly in SPF’s direction. 

  “Watching the shot go in was such a special feeling,” Watt said. “Running over to the crowd with all of my friends and family was an experience I’ll never forget.”

  Into the end of the first half, following Watt’s goal, the match was dominated by defense on both ends. Both squads tightened their play, with Westfield trying to create opportunities for their offense and SPF fighting to hold their lead. 

  “[Westfield] couldn’t get any clean looks in the first half, and I was pretty confident the same was going to happen in the second half,” Marra said. “We had to make sure there were no unenforced areas to prevent their offense from making a push.”

  Throughout the second half, the Blue Devils showed off their speed on a few occasions, pressuring the Raiders, but their tenacious defense didn’t give in. Led by Marra, SPF’s defense rose to the occasion and it seemed like Westfield could not earn a solid look at the goal for the remainder of the showdown. 

  As the clock expired, the Raiders rushed to the stands to celebrate with their hometown crowd, packed with family and friends. The win felt like payback for Scotch Plains, who was well aware of last year’s matchups against their rival. 

  “Losing three straight games to Westfield was devastating,” Watt said. “We remembered that feeling going into the game, and it was something that fueled us and gave us that passion. It was special to finally break that streak.” 

  The victory is massive for the Raiders as they turn to the rest of the season, hoping to succeed last season’s success. Along with that, playing in Red Bull Stadium was a thrilling experience for both squads. 

  “The whole team has been to a Red Bull game, sitting in those seats,” Marra said. “To be on the other end of that and to be able to look up into the stands instead of looking down onto the field was something really cool for all of us.”