Bears, Cadets battle to scoreless tie
By BOB BIRGE
NORWALK — The Norwalk boys’ soccer team is experiencing the expected growing pains after losing 14 players from last season’s state championship club.
The Bears’ offensive struggles continued Wednesday night in a scoreless tie against St. Joseph at Testa Field.
The draw did snap a two-game losing streak, but left Norwalk winless in its last three matches (0-2-1). Such winless streaks have been rare in recent years since the Bears only lost seven regular-season contests in the previous four seasons combined. They were 21-1-1 last year.
Norwalk’s scoreless drought has reached 240 minutes as the Bears were coming off back-to-back shutout losses to Fairfield Warde (1-0) and Greenwich (3-0). Norwalk (1-2-1 overall) has not scored since the final minute of its season-opening 2-0 victory over New Canaan.
“It’s frustrating,” NHS coach Chris Laughton said. “That’s what the tough part is, trying to find that chemistry. It really is a brand new team. A lot of these guys have never played together. You can see in some of the mistakes that we make that they’re not necessarily on the right page in certain scenarios of the game.”
St. Joseph (1-1-1) earned a win and tie in its back-to-back games against the Norwalk schools. The Cadets were coming off Monday’s 1-0 win over Brien McMahon.
The way Wednesday’s contest unfolded, one goal figured to be enough and the Cadets briefly thought they had it with 13:25 remaining. However, the goal was nullified due to an offside ruling and there was no dispute from the St. Joseph bench.
“We’re happy with a point on the road,” St. Joseph coach Steve Waizenegger said. “(Assistant coach) Jay (Golesky) and I have a nice system going with these boys. We’re going to get some goals. We counter-attacked. We created chances on a couple set pieces. We deserved a point today.”
Patrick Barrantes had Norwalk’s first good scoring chance with just over 33 minutes remaining in the first half after St. Joseph goalkeeper Erik Lewicki mishandled a ball when he came far out of his net. However, Lewicki recovered to a make a save on Barrantes’ attempt from inside 25 yards.
With 25 minutes remaining, Jose Canahui almost got the Bears on the board, but his bullet from the left wing carried inches over the crossbar.
St. Joseph’s initial shot came on Michael Lello’s free kick with less than 22 minutes left in first half that carried a few feet over the crossbar.
The Cadets began to press the action with the Bears having trouble maintaining possession. Norwalk sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Dalton came up big when he punched away Tom Santilli’s header off Michael Lello’s corner kick 16 1/2 minutes before the intermission.
(“Norwalk) is still very good on the ball, they just couldn’t penetrate us,” Waizenegger said. “I’ll let them play in their third for 80 minutes and then when we get our chances, we are going to push hard and go to net.”
Without much cohesive play, Norwalk finished the opening half with five shots and St. Joseph attempted four. Dalton made three saves in the first 40 minutes and Lewicki stopped four shots.
With 21 minutes left in the contest, a Norwalk player almost headed the ball into his own net. Fortunately for the Bears, Dalton was alert enough to make the save.
Four minutes later, Norwalk’s Rene Jimenez made a nice run down the left side, but his low shot landed outside the near post.
The Bears are in unfamiliar territory, but Laughton said the players can’t lose faith in a system that has yielded a great deal of success for the program.
“It’s just believing in the system and believing in what we do,” Laughton said. “That’s really what it comes down to do. Eventually, they’re going to pick up on some of the concepts we’re trying to reach them. They have to believe that things are going to get better and I believe we’re really one game away from making things click.”
Laughton did single out the strong play of senior captain Sergio Madujano on the back line
“He was the glue that kept us together in the back,” Laughton said. “He’s a great leader for us, so I thought he really played a good game.”
Norwalk finished with a 12-10 edge in shots, though it didn’t have many quality chances. Dalton totaled nine saves and Lewicki tallied 10 for the Cadets.
The Bears have another home game at 7 p.m. Friday when they host Danbury.
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