Class LL Boys Soccer: Norwalk holds off Trumbull
By MATT COYNE
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — Spectators at Testa Field Monday night would be forgiven for questioning the old adage “form is temporary, but class is permanent.”
After all, for long stretches Trumbull, the 23 seed with a .500 record, outplayed 10th seeded Norwalk, who only had one loss all season.
But after a trying 100 minutes that ended 1-1 and penalty kicks, the Bears proved the old aphorism right, holding the Eagles off long enough to advance 3-1 on penalties.
“The first half we came out pretty flat. I didn’t think we came out with energy,” said Norwalk’s two-year captain and center back Jose Canahui. “To be honest, we didn’t play the best half we ever had. We were pretty bad.”
Norwalk beat Trumbull Sept. 9 2-0, in a game where Trumbull was missing several key players to injury. But the Eagles would go on to win their next five to close out the season, conceding just three goals and scoring 13 of their own.
Norwalk would hit a rut after the win, finishing the regular season 1-1-2 and getting knocked out of the FCIAC tournament in the semifinal by eventual champion Fairfield Ludlowe.
That form would hold, at least at the start, with the Bears having to deal with an aggressive Trumbull team set on testing Norwalk goalkeeper Tyler Dalton early and often.
In the 26th minute, Trumbull’s Justin Lynch took a shot from distance that looked destined for the top right corner, but Dalton made a diving save to keep the game level. Two minutes later, the Eagles Daniel Russo would ring a shot off the post.
“We had them. We let them off,” said Trumbull coach Sebastian Gangemi. “They’re a great team, we’re a great team. We had them in the first half.”
The game remained deadlocked into the second 40 minutes, even with the Bears settling down and finding the attacking flair and offensive fluidity missing from the first half.
In the 67th minute — with the game opened up and the pace quickening — Canahui would whip in a free kick from just outside the box that Loizos Karaiskos would get a head on, but end up in the arms of Trumbull keeper Daniel Isaac.
Norwalk would break through in the 71st minute, with some slick midfield play opening up space on the wing, where George Kutrubis would find Anthony Hernandez, who would curl a shot past Isaac to give the Bears the lead.
But just five minutes later, Trumbull would equalize with a Russo free kick from just inside the halfway line falling to the foot of Jason Imri, who blasted a shot past Dalton.
In the overtime period the Bears nearly found the winner. At the start of the second half of extra time, Norwalk’s Patrick Barrantes rocked a shot off the crossbar. The rebound fell to the foot of Miguel Argueta who had an open net, but couldn’t thanks to some last grasp Trumbull defending.
In penalties, it was Dalton to the rescue again, as the Bears’ keeper got his hands to spot kicks from Imri and Russo.
On the Norwalk side, Canahui missed his, but George Kutubis was able to slip the Bears’ second just past Isaac, while Barrantes and Arueta put theirs in the back of the net to secure the win.
Dalton said he’s come out on the winning end seven of the eight times he’s faced penalties for the Bears, and the key is all mental.
“You’ve got to go into it thinking you’re going to lose and somehow pull off a win,” he said. “This one was pretty ridiculous. I don’t know how I pulled off two of those saves and the last one, but I was pretty pleased with the result.”
Laughton’s side will take on Simsbury Wednesday, which denied the Bears a showdown with their cross-city rivals Brien McMahon 2-1, in the second round.
“We’ve got to come out and really be the aggressors in the next game,” he said, “and keep our eye on the prize and take it one day at a time.”