Published on November 6th, 2017 | by Staples Soccer


Match Report: State Tournament 1st Round, Staples vs. Stamford

The Staples-Stamford league match last month was a crazy affair. The Black Knights were near the top of the FCIAC table. A large Saturday morning crowd — packed with alumni — saw the Wreckers use field player Will Birch in goal; 2 keepers were out with injuries, and a 3rd was at a family memorial service. Five seconds before halftime, midfielder Timmy Liles went out with a foot injury. The blue-and-whites played the final 23 minutes a man down, after a player was shown 2 yellow cards. The visitors eked out a 1-0 win when Birch made a great save, but the rebound caromed in off a Stamford player’s knee.

Staples was erratic through the rest of the season. With 2 starters out they tied league-leading Ridgefield and an excellent Fairfield Ludlowe side — but they were scoreless draws. Then the Wreckers crashed out of the FCIAC tournament, in a 2-0 defeat to a fired-up Greenwich team.

With 12 days off before the state LL (largest schools) tourney began, the Westporters regrouped. They were focused in training, and did an insane amount of fitness.

They came out firing today at Stamford. Though underdogs — seeded #21, to the Knights’ #12 — they gave no quarter. Liles, Anton Mahr and Matt Engler led the charge, shutting down Stamford’s attack before it began and initiating dangerous attacks. Patricio Perez Elorza and Vaughan Sealey lent support, while Nick Ambrose — moved up from his usual spot in the back — lent stability in the middle.

But the key to the 1st half was the defense. Ryan Fincher was his usual presence in the middle, heading nearly everything forward and supplementing it with strong tackles. Chris Martenson — back on the field after a battle with a virus — was impregnable all the way back. Gabe Baltierra patrolled the left flank solidly. On the right side, Birch — the keeper the Knights had seen, and a midfielder for much of the year, gave an added dimension with pinpoint service after winning more than his share of balls.

The Wreckers came close several times. Mahr was nearly in alone, but was sabotaged by a mis-touch. He got free once more, but was stymied.

Two free kicks sailed over the cross. An Engler-Perez Elorza-Sam Liles combination nearly clicked. A Birch to Mahr to Perez Elorza to Timmy Liles sequence earned a corner kick. Perez Elorza quickly won another corner, which Martenson headed just high.

Still, Stamford’s offside trap was working well. It halted several Staples forays in their tracks. The Knights suffered a blow when sweeper Ali Essalamy went out with a hyper-extended knee. Both teams battled on.

As the scoreless match wore on — with the hosts coming on strongly midway through the 2nd half — keeper Ry Cohen came through. He saved expertly in the 73rd minute, then again a minute later. Still — with Martenson, Birch, Fincher and Baltierra in front, and Stamford’s defense equally stout — the game remained tight.

It was so tight that the teams headed to overtime: 2 10-minute periods, played to completion.

Staples — mindful of all they’d done last week in training — poured it on. With less than 3 minutes to go in the 1st OT, Birch won a strong tackle, and found Sealey. He played a long ball down the right side. Azam Plummer ran it down in the corner, and slotted a cross. The keeper got to it, but could not handle it. The ball bounced out, right to the foot of Timmy Liles. The senior calmly finished into the nearly open net, on the right side.

The Wreckers erupted. But they still had more than 12 minutes to play.

Stamford poured it on.  But Staples managed the game intelligently to the end. Wilson Daniels came on in the 2nd OT, and in his first-ever varsity appearance provided strong pressure.

The sweet-revenge win propels the Wreckers into the 2nd round. They’ll face the winner of tonight’s 7 p.m. match between #5 Ridgefield and #28 Central. The Tigers led 3-0 at halftime.

As noted above, in the regular season Staples tied the Tigers 0-0. Earlier this fall, they dropped a dismal 3-0 decision at Central.

Welcome to the state tournament, where every match starts 0-0 — and all bets are off. FINAL SCORE: Staples 1, Stamford 0 (overtime). SEASON RECORD: 9-5-4.

QUICK KICKS: Upsets were the rule today. In Staples’ half of the bracket, all 5 lower seeds won. Among FCIAC teams, #29 Fairfield Warde beat #4 Newtown 3-2 (penalty kicks, 9-8); #20 Norwalk topped #13 South Windsor 3-1; #11 Greenwich shut out #22 Hamden 2-0; #14 Trumbull defeated #19 Cheshire 2-0, and #6 Farmington eliminated #27 Westhill 5-1. Other interesting scores: #25 Wilbur Cross upset #8 Hall-West Hartford 1-0, and #24 Pomperaug outlasted #9 Fairfield Prep 4-3….

The Wreckers’ most recent overtime game was 2 years ago. After tying 1-1 through OT, Staples fell 5-4 on penalty kicks to Hall-West Hartford….

Stamford coach Mario Caminiti got to the game just before kickoff. He was on jury duty earlier in the day.

Anton Mahr was a powerful force for the Wreckers at Stamford. (Photo/Alan Frost)


Central defender Ryan Fincher contents with a gaggle of 7 Stamford Black Knights. (Photo/Alan Frost)


Vaughan Sealey surveys the field, for a throw-in. (Photo/Alan Frost)


Timmy Liles (center) is hugged by Gabe Baltierra (#4) and other Wrecker teammates. The senior’s goal gave Staples a 1-0 state tournament win at Stamford. (Photo/Alan Frost)


The scoreboard — and 2 contrasting scenes — tell the story at the end of Staples’ 1st state tournament match. (Photo/Alan Frost)



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