Fraioli’s Heroics Force Tie With GHS
By Paul Silverfarb
Norwalk Boys’ Soccer Team Scores Goal Off a Corner Kick to Even Score With Greenwich High 1-1, Both Teams 3-0-2 on Season.
The number 1 was the theme of the evening Monday when the Norwalk High School boys’ soccer team took on its Greenwich counterpart at Sam Testa Field.
In a game where each team made one key mistake that changed the outcome, Norwalk was able to use its “No. 1” corner kick and force a 1-1 tie.
In a driving rain that completely soaked the turf, the Cardinals had the better play throughout the first half and some of the second but weren’t able to break the gritty defense of the Bears. The tie took both teams’ records to 3-0-2 on the season.
“Tying Greenwich was nice,” said Norwalk head coach Kurt Simonsen. “They are a great team and one of the best in the league. They have a terrific midfield. To come back and play strong in the second half defensively and to earn good opportunities for the most part, the kids did a really good job and showed a lot of guts tonight.”
The Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead. With 17 minutes, 34 seconds to play in the first half, Anthony Bowers was given an indirect kick and blasted it toward the net. The ball landed on the foot of Norwalk defender Dan Pratt and was accidentally redirected past goalie Mike Surace and into the Bears’ own net.
“They got that one goal off a miscue because of the bad weather, and we didn’t want anything else to happen,” said fellow defender Matt Mitchell. “I told Dan, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ It wasn’t his fault. On a dry day that doesn’t happen. We get a point for the tie tonight, and that’s all that matters.”
“It was a great free kick that came in and basically [Norwalk] didn’t get anybody to the end of it,” said Greenwich head coach Kurt Putnam. “We put the pressure on, and that guy from Norwalk tried to clear it and he just sliced it, and the ball went into the corner of the net.”
Greenwich started the second half the same way as the first, by pressuring the Norwalk defense. With 32:44 to play in the game, Greenwich’s Bryan Pino drilled a shot from the corner that sailed through the goalie box. About eight minutes later the Cardinals had another chance, as Gedward Alba took the ball downfield and was ready to fire a shot on the net, but Pratt was there to make the sliding deflection.
Norwalk then began to strike back. Anthony Fraioli got the ball from the midfield and bolted downfield for the breakaway. On the shot, however, Greenwich goalie Kevin Donahue got a hand on the ball and Norwalk was awarded a corner kick.
With 21:13 remaining in the game, Fraioli called for the No. 1 kick, which is a line drive on the ground instead of the high, arching kick that is used to allow the ball to be redirected off a player’s head. Amid the ensuing confusion, the ball went off Donahue’s legs and was redirected into the net for the equalizer.
“I called that play, and that’s when I drove it in and it just caused chaos in there,” said Fraioli. “It went off the goalie’s legs and went in. It was a nice way to get a goal. We were trying pressuring and everything to get the ball in the net. It came at a perfect time.”
“That’s a play we run and actually practice quite often,” said Simonsen. “Part of it is for all the confusion and commotion up front. I think Anthony made a good call. It was a very wet surface, and the ball’s going to skip. It was a good call.”
The Bears’ corner-kick goal was especially deflating for the Cardinals. Not only did it tie the game, but it was also the first goal given up by Greenwich this season.
“We gave up a goal for the first time in 380 minutes, and it was such a sloppy way to give up a goal,” said Putnam. “I told the team that I thought we did more than enough to come out with a win, but I did feel like we got robbed a bit. The boys are a little down right now because they thought they were going to come out with a win.”
With the game tied, each team had a solid opportunity to find the back of the net once more. With 15:59 left to play, Greenwich’s Hassan Munive sprinted down the field and was preparing for a shot on goal from about 10 yards out, but Mitchell was there to make a sliding deflection and Munive was unable to get off a shot.
With 12:39 remaining, Mitchell was at it again, with a direct kick from about 35 yards out. He lofted the ball into the air, and Fraioli went up for the header, but the ball sailed over the crossbar.
“Apart from when Norwalk got their goal, there was really only one team out there, to be honest,” said Putnam. “Norwalk got completely out-played, out-hustled and out-worked. At halftime I thought we were good with the lead; however, you can’t come onto this field with a 1-0 lead and think that you can hold them. We went out in the second half, and Norwalk started getting a little more into it.”
Although the Bears couldn’t do more than force a tie, Simonsen was pleased with his team’s effort. “It’s a point, and it’s only going to count if it gets you to the playoffs at the end of the year,” he said. “We’re not scared to lose a game. The kids come out and try to win, and in order to win, you can’t fear losing.”
Today at 3:45 p.m., NHS will be back in action when they battle Trinity Catholic.