His given name is Ricardo Reid, but on the soccer pitch, the Cardinal Hayes striker is, well, “Special.”
“I was the first to be born from my dad and that’s the nickname he gave me,” Reid said.
It fits because Reid is a special talent, a combination of blinding speed and improving skills. But the same could be said of Cardinal Hayes, which defeated defending CHSAA Class A intersectional champions Cardinal Spellman, 2-0, in The Bronx Wednesday afternoon.
The Cardinals have lost just once, a 1-0 defeat against Mount St. Michael on Sept. 21, but since are riding an eight-match unbeaten streak and could be considered a legitimate title contender.
“It’s much closer this year. No one is running away with anything,” Hayes coach Paul Ellis said. “They’ve earned their place in that little group and I don’t think they’re out of place.”
Hayes (6-1-3) also didn’t look out of place against Spellman. The Cardinals took the game to the hosts from the opening whistle and deservedly grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute as Reid pounced on the ball, raced in on goal and clinically buried it in the corner.
“He’s obviously very quick and he has that as a huge weapon,” Ellis said. “He’s learning how to bring other things with it. The last three games he’s made huge strides.”
Cesar Espinoza doubled Cardinal Hayes’ lead five minutes before halftime, taking a ball that deflected out from Marco Ramirez’s corner kick and hit it low and hard from 22 yards out.
“Coach told me if I have confidence in my shot to take it, take the opportunity. Even if it doesn’t go in, one of them will,” Espinoza said. “When I saw the ball bouncing, I just immediately took the chance and shot it.”
Espinoza now has five goals, all from outside the 18-yard box.
“He has a powerful kick,” Reid said.
Espinoza nearly added a second goal three minutes later, but he hammered a 35-yard free kick off the crossbar to close out a dominant opening 40 minutes for Hayes.
“The attitude right from the first whistle was absolutely superb,” Ellis said. “Their commitment was there in absolute bucketfuls. I know they have ability, I know they can play a little bit, but sometimes its earning the right to play and I thought they did that superbly well today.”
Spellman coach Tom Cabrera used his halftime team talk to rip into his squad for their lack of intensity. The Pilots, which suffered a stunning 4-0 loss to Mount on Monday, responded and had the better of the ball in the second half, but couldn’t bury their chances.
Marco Tutino put a volley over the net in the 63rd minute and Cory Allen’s shot from distance skimmed the crossbar six minutes later.
While Spellman (5-2-3) has hit a dry spell late in the regular season, Hayes continues to roll along, moving into second place in A-North with a rematch against Mount on the horizon.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to win the championship,” Reid said. “Last year we won the division without losing a game. We have to do better this year.”
That would certainly cap a special season.
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter: @Dylan_Butler