Bears knocked out by Cardinals
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
GREENWICH — There’s no margin for error in the state tournament and the Norwalk High boys soccer team found that out the hard way.
In a game that featured two evenly-matched opponents, Greenwich capitalized on a defensive breakdown by the Bears to score a goal. Unfortunately for Norwalk, it was the lone goal of the game.
Kenny Doublette’s second-half tally gave the Cardinals a 1-0 victory over the Bears in a physical and hard-fought Class LL state tourney first round game Tuesday afternoon at Greenwich High.
Eleventh-seeded Greenwich (13-3-2) advances to the second round where the Cardinals will play at No. 6 New Milford at 2 p.m. Thursday. New Milford beat No. 27 Stamford, 3-0.
Norwalk, the No. 22 seed, completes its season at 7-5-5. “We knew it was going to be a tight game and it would probably come down to one goal,” Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said. “We had a lapse for one minute and they scored.”
The first half was played at a frenetic pace with both teams taking turns going up and down the field. It was evident right off the bat that the game would be a defensive struggle, quite a difference from last month’s 4-4 regular season tie between the two teams in which the Bears rallied from a second half deficit.
“In the first half we played pretty well,” Laughton said. “I thought we had the better chances.”
The defense forced both teams to take shots from 35-40 yards out, sailing high over the crossbar.
The physicality of the match picked up in the second half but neither team could cash in on any of its free kicks. Scoring chances off set pieces were few and far between.
“The game’s lack of chances was a result of the mutual respect both programs have for each other,” Greenwich coach Kurt
Putnam said. “The last game was 4-4 and this game there weren’t nearly enough chances to get anywhere close to that. At the end of the day, we were able to keep their impact players quiet.”
Ten minutes into the second half, Norwalk’s Jake Zuniga made a run down the left sideline and was able to find Spencer Jacoby in the middle of the field. Jacoby got off a solid shot right in the box but Greenwich goalie Sebastian Camacho made the save at 49:29.
A throw-in by Julian Zenner of Greenwich in Norwalk territory found its way to the feet of Doublette, who maneuvered through the Bears defense, shaking off several defenders before he deposited the ball past goalie Alex Hurd and into the bottom right corner of the net, far post, at 54: 47 to give the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish.
“It was a breakdown,” Laughton said. “He’s a dangerous player and he made them pay. He dribbled by them and was one-on-one with Alex, who was left in no-man’s land, and he finished his chance. He’s a quality player and you can’t give a guy like that room to play.”
Greenwich had some opportunities thereafter yet was content to sit on the goal and play defense, especially the last 15 minutes. The Cardinals’ back line of Austin Jordan, Arturo Gonzalez and Clayton Bowers frustrated Norwalk’s key playmakers, Andres Torres, Nic Zuniga and Chris Puente, the entire game.
“You have to give credit to Greenwich,” Laughton said. ” Defensively they’re solid and have a really strong back line. They didn’t give our guys a whole lot of room.”
Norwalk’s defense, for the most part, limited the Cardinals as well. Laughton particularly praised the play of Mike Lepoutre, who ” gave everything he had and he’s done that since he’s been in the program.”
“We could’ve played better, we’ve had more offensive productive games, but it just didn’t go our way today,” said Lepoutre, a senior. Following the goal, the Bears had to push forward in order to score the equalizer. They made some runs into Greenwich territory in the last 10 minutes, with their best chance coming with 9:22 remaining in the game. A header by Jake Zuniga went wide of the goal off a free kick by Wil Arbieto. The physical style of play by both teams caught up to them with a rash of injuries over the last 10 minutes. Jacoby was knocked out of the game due to an ankle injury with 9: 31 left, Bowers came out with 6: 18 on the clock, Lepoutre was shaken up with 5:40 remaining but stayed in the game and Isai Hernandez of Greenwich departed with 3:38 on the clock. Norwalk couldn’t get off a solid scoring opportunity in the last several minutes of the contest as the Cardinals held on for the win to advance in the tournament.
Greenwich had the edge in shots on goal (4-2) and corner kicks (4-2). Hurd made three saves and Camacho had two in registering the shutout, just the fourth time all season Norwalk failed to score. “This was a game, on both sides, where if you had a chance you had to finish it,” said Laughton, who wished his seniors well as they move on to the next level. ” They were able to capitalize on theirs and we weren’t.”
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