EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Coach Matt Driver knew his AC Crusaders men's soccer team would have to do something special Sunday against unbeaten FC Sonic. The visitors had the distinction of the being the only one of 50 National Premier Soccer League teams with a perfect record.
The Crusaders played an aggressive style and took chances with a 3-5-2 formation, but it eventually worked in reverse as talented Sonic, of Bethlehem, Pa., scored three first-half goals. Sonic took no chances with a defensive style in the second half and settled for a 3-0 win.
The Crusaders rarely had a good opportunity to score in the second half against visitors, who have given up only one goal all season.
FC Sonic is running away with the NPSL's Northeast-Keystone Conference with an 8-0 mark and 24 points. The Crusaders are 4-4 for 12 points, second in the conference. The top two teams in each NPSL conference make the playoffs.
"We played a different formation and played open and more aggressive because we really needed a win," Driver said. "We needed to stay in control of second place. But we knew that if we gambled that we could get caught. Now we have to win out (with four games left) and hope the other teams don't win."
Sonic midfielder Tom Mustac scored the first two goals and teammate Cody Antonini made it 3-0.
Crusaders goalie Paul Erbacher made a great one-handed save in close on Sonic's Joe Sales in the 20th minute, but the rebound came to Mustac near the goal and he drilled it into the right corner to make it 1-0. Mustac added a second goal 12 minutes later from nearly the same spot on the right side.
Antonini, who also plays for Muhlenberg College (Pa.), maneuvered around the charging Erbacher outside the right post in the 38th minute, and booted the ball into the open net for the final goal. Hustac got the assist.
FC Sonic goalie Charlie Sales made three saves, and substitute goalie Nate McDonald didn't have to make a save in the final 24 minutes.
"Our guys are skilled players and they had strong passes and opened up the gaps," FC Sonic coach Dave Weitzman said. "They put the ball on the floor and put the final pass through. They were really composed."
Crusaders center back Tommy O'Rourke, a resident of Lawrenceville, Mercer County, will be a sophomore player for Rutgers University.
"FC Sonic is a great team and we knew we'd have our hands full," O'Rourke said. "The first 20 minutes we stuck with it, but maybe then there was fatigue or confusion. We haven't had the same lineup. We can still make the playoffs, but we don't have much time left."
Contact Guy Gargan:
FC Sonic 3 0-3
AC Crusaders 0 0-0
Goals-Mustac (2), Antonini FCS.
Goalies-C. Sales (3), McDonald (0) FCS. Erbacher (2) AC.
Records-FCS 8-0, AC 4-4.