Central holds off Norwalk
By ALEXANDER WISER
BRIDGEPORT – Saturday’s FCIAC Boys soccer showdown between Norwalk and Bridgeport Central began with gusting winds and ended with dashed dreams for the visiting Bears.
Norwalk’s conference championship aspirations were blown away amid a 10 win by host Central.
Sixthseeded Norwalk (7-3-5) seemed a step slow for much of the first half, as No. 3 Central (10-2-3) put the heat on deep in Norwalk territory from the outset. Although the Bears would garner plenty of scoring opportunities down the stretch, it proved to be too little, too late.
“We came out flat and it cost us,” said Norwalk coach Chris Laughton. “We needed to come out with a high level of intensity and we didn’t.”
With 22 minutes remaining in the opening half, Central netted the afternoon’s lone goal courtesy of a finish by senior co-captain Wagner Colodette.
Colodette was camped out on the Norwalk crease when fellow Central co-captain Reco McClaren blasted a direct kick from 20 yards out on the Norwalk cage.
Norwalk senior keeper Alex Hurd made an acrobatic stop on the initial shot but surrendered a rebound, which Colodette deftly placed into the back of the Norwalk net.
Having battled the Bears just two weeks ago — in what would prove to be a 2-1 defeat — McClaren and his teammates were intent on dictating the flow of the game this time around.
“They had us on our heels last time we played, so we were determined to control the tempo of this game,” said McClaren.
“We knew if we gained possession and created enough opportunities, we could win this one. I put the shot on cage and he (Colodette) was able to finish the scoring chance.”
Following the early scoring strike by Central, Norwalk struggled to control possession. Forced to play heading into a fierce wind, seemingly easy passes by Norwalk failed to connect, as the host Hilltoppers continued to apply pressure on Hurd and the Bears defense. With the tandem of McClaren and Colodette wreaking havoc in the Norwalk zone, the Bears finally notched a great scoring opportunity in the waning moments of the first half.
Nic Zuniga boomed a direct kick from 30 yards out that found the Central cage on a rope. However, Central keeper Mario Pecirep punched it out of harm’s way, resulting in a corner kick that the Bears could not convert as the clock expired.
If nothing else, the play showed that Norwalk was ready to awaken in hopes of knotting things up.
“I thought that we were starting to dominate offensively,” said Hurd, who finished with 11 saves.
“We started to get some great opportunities from that point on but just weren’t able to finish them.”
Several of those opportunities for the Bears were golden following the intermission, as the Norwalk offense turned the tables to manufacture a flurry of quality second half chances.
With the unforgiving wind now to their advantage, a more intense and frenetic pace was established by the visiting Bears over the next 30 minutes.
Norwalk hustled its way to four direct kicks in a 10-minute span of second half action, with a pair of plays that appeared destined to even things up.
Direct kicks for Norwalk by Willy Arbieto and Tyler Collins both found their way onto the Central cage, only to be punched mere inches over the crossbar by a sprawling Pecirep between the pipes.
In the waning moments, Jake Zuniga, Andres Torres and Arbieto worked the ball deep in Hilltoppers’ territory, but the second-half surge put forth by the visiting Bears would fall short in a 1-0 Central victory.
With the win, Central will move on to the FCIAC final four against Ridgefield.
For Norwalk senior captain Collins and his teammates, the state tournament presents his team with a clean slate.
However, he also knows that another slow start teamed with a lack of urgency could end the Bears season sooner than they would like.
“We’re better than what we showed today,” said Collins. “In states, we have to come out and play as if it is going to be our last game, because if we come out flat again, it could be our last game. We can’t let that happen.”
© The Hour Newspaper