To put it simply, Kagiso Mathabatha has been as advertised.
The postgrad center back on Putnam Science Academy’s Prep soccer team first impressed coach Ryan Dunnigan at a summer showcase in Atlanta with his solid technique, strong athleticism, and the intangibles that coaches like to see.
A month-plus into PSA’s season, KG as he known, is showing all the same qualities and has been the team’s most consistent player through the team’s 1-3 start. That includes Saturday’s difficult-to-swallow 1-0 loss at South Kent, a game in which PSA got the better of game play but didn’t finish the multiple scoring chances it had.
“He’s just been solid,” Dunnigan said recently. “He just doesn’t really make mistakes. His positioning is what it should be. His aggressiveness toward the ball is what it should be. He doesn’t get beat one-on-one.
“He just has such a mature approach to everything.”
That maturity was one of the intangibles Dunnigan noticed in Atlanta. When the games were over and the players had free time, most did the things that teenagers do – sleep, video games, scroll endlessly on their phones. But the Pretoria, South Africa native who was at Layton Christian Academy in Utah last school year, put all that aside to take online courses.
To be fair, KG said, he needed to get a couple more credits to finish off his high school diploma, so online courses over video games wasn’t a particularly difficult choice. Still, the decision reflected his character.
“That just comes from my parents,” he said. “The way I am now reflects on the way I was brought up. My parents have taught me to work hard on an off the pitch, that school was important to do well in. I’ve always taken that with me when I came to the States.
“Taking those courses, even though I was there for (soccer), I had to focus on my assignments so I could actually graduate.”
Dunnigan said KG is a Division I player, but the financial side of college soccer (where scholarships aren’t as readily available like they are in basketball and football) means he will likely end up in either Division II or III and really thrive as many former PSA players have.
For now though, the soft-spoken KG is trying to help his team get its season turned around.
PSA conceded a goal with 14 minutes to play off a set piece from just outside the box. PSA was without one of its top defenders on the play because the referee ordered him and a South Kent player to “take a break” after the two were jostling for position. This after PSA was unable to capitalize on three or four good scoring chances throughout the game.
“Losses like (Saturday) stay with me for a while,” he said. “I didn’t do much, talk much (Saturday night). That was a tough one. I’ve never seen anything like that before, to be honest. But we have to just keep learning from mistakes, keep it switched on at all times.”
Elite team wins one, drops one
PSA’s Elite team split a pair of games last week, taking down St. Thomas More 2-0 Wednesday two days after dropping a 2-0 decision at Woodstock’s second team Monday.
Shemeza Rubeya scored both PSA goals, the first coming about 15 seconds into the game and the next about 15 minutes later.
“I think that really helped us to be more confident,” Rubeya said of his quick strike. “We felt like the other team was a little bit scared because they conceded a goal so early. That was crazy.”
Angel Miguel played well in goal and Carlos Paniagua had a strong all-around game in the midfield for PSA.
It was an all-around better effort by PSA, which was outworked for much of the Woodstock game.
“They were much more physical than we were,” PSA coach Kurt Lunzmann said after that one. “We didn’t match that, and in some cases, we didn’t try to match that. We didn’t challenge balls in the first half and the ones we did, we didn’t win. So we need to be better with that.
“The second half was better. These are learning experiences for us.”
Stephen Nalbandian
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy


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