Published on September 29th, 2018 | by Staples Soccer0
Match Report: Staples vs. Norwalk
The mood on the Staples soccer team after Wednesday was sour. The Wreckers lacked cohesion, passion and toughness in a 2-0 loss to Greenwich.
On paper, the next game — the one they’d need to get back on track — was daunting. Norwalk was 5-1-0, tied for 2nd place in the FCIAC standings.
But the match-up was a good one. Both teams play quick, possession soccer. Both have tough defenses and excellent goalkeepers. Both respect each other immensely, as next-door rivals and because so many players know others on the opposing side. If the Wreckers brought their “A” game, they had a chance to regain their mojo.
The game at Testa Field started auspiciously for the guests. Mauricio Inglada and Lefty Penderakis pressed hard. Matt Tanzer and Vaughan Sealey won their share of midfield balls. Nick DiMasi and Sam Liles attached speedily on the flanks.
Gabe Baltierra came up from the back, and narrowly missed a header. Keeper Ry Cohen saved nicely. It was a back-and-forth half — played skillfully and tenaciously — and only a swooping tackle by Suriya Balaji with 7 seconds left before intermission kept the scoreline deadlocked.
Two minutes after play resumed, the Bears cleared Staples’ best chance off the line. The Wreckers came right back, with Penderakis just missing on a header off Tanzer’s free kick. The Sealey sent a seeing-eye ball through to DiMasi, who missed wide by inches. Staples picked up where they left off, playing their best soccer of the season against an excellent foe.
Their pressure and teamwork bore fruit in the 54th minute. DiMasi earned a corner kick. Sealey sliced it goalward. Austin Sholes — the central player who had missed the previous 3 matches with an injury — rose high. His power header flew into the back of the net, stunning Norwalk and electrifying his side.
An excellent save by Bear keeper Gianluca Trofa at the edge of the box kept it 1-0. At the other end, Cohen replied with a superb save on a very dangerous free kick.
Norwalk kept coming. In the 66th minute they roared upfield. Matt Hernandez finished clinically, drawing the hosts level.
From then on it was all Bears. They poured on the offense, fighting for the go-ahead strike. They thought they had it several times. But hang-in-there defense — particularly by Ambrose, playing one of his best games ever, and poised, tough sophomore Balaji — kept the door shut.
The Wreckers had a lot to contend with — including 4 corner kicks in the final 5 minutes. The hero of the match — particularly the final moments — was Cohen. He was sure-handed, confident, cat-like and in charge.
Staples does not like to tie. They particularly don’t like to draw when they’ve had the lead.
But, said head coach Dan Woog, “This was an important point to pick up. It was a good, hard game against an excellent opponent. It’s a point, and the kind of a match, we needed.”
It was also, Woog noted, the halfway point for the regular season. Fasten your seatbelts. The 2nd half of the FCIAC schedule should be plenty of fun. FINAL SCORE: Staples 1, Norwalk 1. SEASON RECORD: 4-2-2.
QUICK KICKS: The Wreckers played the past 4 games without midfielder Patricio Perez Elorza. He was on an academic program in France….
Freshman coach Chris O’Dell will remember yesterday’s freshman match for a long time. The Wreckers dominated the 1st half, but were 0-0. Early in the 2nd half Norwalk scored on a scramble off a free kick. When a Staples defender was shown 2 yellow cards, they were suddenly a man down. Ryan Thomas anchored the 3 backs. Midfielders Sam Vannart, Will Adams and Jackson Hochhauser, along with the attackers, stepped up their game, bringing it to the Bears for the final 20 minutes. The Wreckers had several excellent opportunities, but Norwalk’s keeper saved everything — including a breakaway. With just 5 seconds left, Bruno Guiduli laced a laser-like free kick toward the box. Vannart met it perfectly, heading it in for the well-deserved 1-1 draw.