Boys Soccer: Norwalk suffers worst loss since 2007 in setback to Bridgeport Central
By JOHN NASH Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — The Norwalk High boys soccer team was forced to wait nearly 30 extra minutes to start Tuesday’s FCIAC game as bus problems prevented visiting Bridgeport Central from arriving on time.
By the time the Hilltoppers packed up and headed home with their first win of the season, it was as if the Bears had been run over by a bus, instead.
Bridgeport Central was given just 10 minutes to warm up after disembarking its ride to Testa Field, but once the opening whistle sounded the Hilltoppers came out on fire, getting a penalty kick opportunity in the first minute of the game and three first-half goals en route to a 5-1 drubbing of the Bears.
“I’m speechless,” said Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton, whose team slipped to 1-3 with its third straight defeat. “This is the first time I’ve experienced a loss like this since I’ve been at Norwalk High, on our field. I’m speechless and taken back. It’s clear we have to figure things out.”
Laughton said his team is continuing to practice great, but getting off to slow starts in games has put them behind the Nike Skills Copa America Soccer Ball.
The Hilltoppers drew a penalty kick less than a minute into the game, but Norwalk goalkeeper Tyler Dalton (9 saves) kept the game scoreless with a diving save of Ryheim Hinds’ shot.
Over a 17-minute span of the first half, though, Norwalk would find itself trailing by three goals.
“After a minute they had a PK and they scored shortly thereafter,” said Laughton. “We’re digging ourselves a hole early in the game.”
Daigo Gardner scored twice for Central — the second time on a rebound that wasn’t cleared — and Edgar Martinez potted a goal that came on another rebound off a direct kick with 8:36 left.
Fourteen seconds after falling behind 3-0, the Bears showed a spark of what could be when it raced down the field and Anthony Hernandez scored with a looping shot over Central goalkeeper Andres Palacio (3 saves).
Instead of getting ignited by that spark, however, Norwalk just faded away — failing to put together another good scoring chance in the opening half.
Norwalk opened the second half with two good opportunities as Alex Torres got off a good shot that Palacio deflected high and Mike Mercuri had a follow up shot that was saved, as well.
Later, Central would put the game away when Gardner fed Yoel Salvadore for a tally with 17:30 to play, and Akeem Mitchell scored on a 25-yard direct kick to make it 5-1.
“I’ll take the blame for this. I don’t care. It can be placed on me,” said Laughton. “But we have to believe in ourselves as a team and today it was obvious we didn’t. I think the tough part for me to swallow is we didn’t show any fight. We had guys who were OK losing the game, which is completely unacceptable.”
The four-goal loss was Norwalk’s biggest defeat since then-nationally ranked Westhill beat the Bears 7-3 on Oct. 18, 2007.
The game was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. due to the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, but a bus issue had Central trapped in Bridgeport until 2:55 p.m.
Additionally, one of the varsity referees didn’t show up so an official was called over from the JV game to fill in.
The Bears kept warming up, though in low-intensity fashion, while waiting for the Hilltoppers to arrive.
Central, meanwhile, got off the bus focused and ready to play.
“We leave the school and we say, ‘Let’s get focused on the game and we’ll get the victory,” said Hinds, a senior captain to dominated the midfield. “We come prepared for the victory. We come late, we get 10 minute, so we just prepared for the victory and we did it.”
The long wait might have had an adverse effect on the Bears.
“I’m sure it impacts it, but at the end of the day you have a game and you have to get up for it,” said Laughton. “We weren’t up for it again.”
During the preseason, Laughton said he had high expectations for this year’s team. He still thinks his squad can turn things around.
“I still believe in this group and what they can do, but they have to believe in themselves moving forward,” said Laughton, who spent almost 30 minutes having a post-game, heart-to-heart with his team and then his captains. “A quarter of the season is over and the first part of the season didn’t go the way we wanted, but we have the power to turn it around.”
The Bears play at Darien on Friday.