Published on November 18th, 2021 | by Staples Soccer0
Full State Tournament Semifinal Match Report: Staples vs. Farmington
The last time Staples played at Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium was the state class LL final, in 2010. An electrifying free kick, late in the game, denied the Wreckers a 2nd straight state championship, by a 2-1 score.
The other 3 Staples-Farmington state tournament matches had been nail-biters too. The Wreckers won in 2006, on penalty kicks. The upstaters were victorious in 2011 and 2016, both times 1-0.
Last night’s Municipal Stadium match joins that list of classics.
The 7th-seeded River Hawks boasted Matt Cense, a wide-ranging striker with many moves. Staples — ranked 6th — did not man-mark him. But Caleb Tobias, Jaden Mueller, Dylan Hoke, Tim Liakh — and anyone else who was near — kept close watch. Cence — usually able to spring himself free, and open up a game — had less room than he was used to.
Without that weapon, the River Hawks allowed the Westporters to dictate the rhythm and style of play. The soft turf was perfect for Staples — a patient, possession, play-it-out-of-the-back side with individual and team speed, and a penchant for finding seams and spreading the field wide.
With Matthew Jordan roaring into the corner, and Reese Watkins playing ferociously off him, Staples opened with 3 quick corner kicks. They have a variety of set piece options, but Farmington’s defense — and keeper Patrick Pietraszewki — were equal to the task.
The Wrecker back line of Bruno Guiduli, Jackson Hochhauser, Hunter Smith and Caleb Tobias played with confidence. They’d allowed no goals through the first 3 games of the state tourney, and worked well as a unit. They knew when to step up and when to drop. They swung the ball from side to side. They covered for each other, and their ball-winning instincts — even in dangerous spots — were true.
The senior laden (9 starters) Staples side has been in close matches before. The 0-0 halftime deadlock did not worry them. They opened the 2nd half strongly.
In the 46th minute, keeper Jacob Greenberger saved well on a quick restart. Cence took the ensuing corner kick — their only one of the night. A shot bounced off the crossbar. Senior defender Dominic Gallo scuffed at the ball. It was cleared again — but the River Hawks celebrated.
The center official — who called an excellent game — conferred with his assistant referee. Quickly, he ruled: The goal counted. It was the first ever of Gallo’s career.
The Wreckers went right back to work. They continued to control the match. They continued to play to feet, with an occasional long cross. They continued to defend mightily. With assistant coach Russell Oost-Lievense reassuring them “there’s plenty of time,” they continued to shoot.
Watkins, Tobias, Murilo Moreno, Jack Foster — all peppered Pietraszewski. Mueller’s rocket was saved. The clock continued to tick.
Two straight crosses in the 73rd minute were denied. Another — 3 minutes from time — was also cleared.
Then came another, with 2 to play.
And then it was over.
Staples’ dream of a 19th trip to the state finals — and a possible 13th crown — was shattered.
So were many of the seniors. They’d done exactly what they wanted to, all game long. The only thing they did not do was score.
Dave Ruden of The Ruden Report saw Staples often this year. He called last night’s match “beautiful and cruel.”
Farmington coach Nick Boorman told head coach Dan Woog that no team this year had pushed the River Hawks the way Staples had. A Farmington player shook his head and said, “We had 2 shots all night.” (Staples had 17.)
Soccer is indeed a cruel — and beautiful — game. Woog — who has seen his share of Staples teams, state tournament games (and Farmington matches) — said, “I’m gutted for our guys. They gave it everything they had. They did everything we asked, and they did it with passion and poise. They had a superb season, and they are even more superb young men. For all they accomplished, they have no hardware to show. That will hurt for a long time. But I hope they realize what they’ve done, for Staples soccer, their school and their town. They are as worthy of wearing the Staples ‘S’ as any championship team.” FINAL SCORE: Farmington 1, Staples 0. FINAL RECORD: 13-3-4.
QUICK KICKS: The 7 p.m. kickoff was delayed until 8 p.m. The 1st match went to 2 rounds of penalty kicks. Cheshire — ranked 13th — upset undefeated Xavier, after a 1-1 deadlock. Cheshire and Farmington meet in the state final this weekend at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium ….
Over 400 people watched the livestream of the semifinal match. Robert Brickley, Charlie Scott, and Dan Donovan — who coached many of the seniors when they were youth players — handled the announcing duties with insights and aplomb ….
Staples graduates 18 seniors: Will Adams, Marius Ekeberg, Jack Foster, Brewster Galley, Matthew Genser, Jacob Greenberger, Bruno Guiduli, Jackson Hochhauser, Matthew Jordan, Spencer Levine Tim Liakh, Aidan Mermagen, Murilo Moreno, Jaden Mueller, Ryan Thomas, Caleb Tobias, Sam Vannart, and Reese Watkins. Thomas Corridon missed the entire year, with an ACL injury.