Norwalk goes down with a fight
By TOM EVANS
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — Head coach Chris Laughton and his Norwalk boys soccer team took the high road against FCIAC rival Greenwich Wednesday night at Sam Testa Field, passing up the chance to win by forfeit and playing the final 67 minutes, 20 seconds.
When a second Greenwich player was cited for wearing jewelry, the officials were prepared to issue head coach Kurt Putnam a second yellow card, thus ejecting Putnam from the game.
With no assistant coach to take over the team, the game would have been awarded to Norwalk by forfeit. After a brief conversation with his team, Laughton told the officials to negate the second yellow and let the game continue.
The game was tied 1-1 with 27:20 to play in the first half when Greenwich senior goalkeeper Brian Milazzo (five saves) was seen wearing a necklace.
Although the Bears ultimately dropped a 3-2 decision, Laughton was pleased to see the performance of his players, and the progress his team has made over the first couple of weeks of the season.
Norwalk slipped to 1-3 overall and 1-3 in the conference, while Greenwich improved to 2-1 in the FCIAC and overall.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my players,” Laughton said. “We could’ve taken the (forfeit) win, but the players wanted to play the game, and they played their hearts out. The game tonight was proof that this is the way this team can play.”
The Cardinals got on the scoreboard first at the 34:41 mark. From the middle of the field, senior forward Bryan Pino sent a pass to junior midfielder/forward Alex Deus on the left wing. Deus lofted a shot over goalkeeper Alex Hurd (17 saves) to put the visitors up 1-0.
“Everybody did what they can do,” Deus said. “We all did our best.”
Norwalk tied the game less than three minutes later when senior forward and tri-captain Ronny Machado rushed down the right side and sent a crossing ball that senior forward Manny Arteaga headed behind Milazzo to make it 1-1 at 31:43.
“I sent a cross to Manny, and he did a good job heading the ball in,” Machado said. “I’m proud of the team. We worked hard and played well as a team. The ball didn’t bounce our way all the time, but we were moving the ball and communicating better.”
The score remained that way until halftime, and Hurd had a lot to do with that by making seven of his saves over the final 28 minutes of the half.
Both teams also missed golden scoring opportunities over that span that weren’t the result of goalkeeping.
Greenwich junior defender Scott Marschall kicked away a shot by senior midfielder Javier Mandujano from the crease. Senior defender Trevor Wysocki, near the left post, headed an Arteaga attempt from deep on the right wing out of harm’s way.
Machado, on the left side, also took a pass from sophomore defender Tyler Collins in the middle of the field and whistled a shot that grazed the outside of the right post and sailed out of bounds.
Deus got even closer with a shot from low on the left side, clanging the upright as it deflected out of the crease.
Putnam, who described the win as “ugly” and ripped his players during and after the game for the jewelry infractions, saved his compliments for the Norwalk side. During the postgame handshakes, he repeatedly told the Bears to “keep playing that way” and “you deserved to get more out of that game.”
“Norwalk played 10 times better than they did against New Canaan,” Putnam said in reference to Norwalk’s season-opening 2-0 loss to the Rams. “The way we played was in complete contrast to the way we played two days ago, and Norwalk had a lot to do with that. They moved the ball around, played well, and made us make mistakes.”
The game lost none of its considerable entertainment value after halftime. Hurd stopped senior defender James Amen early in the second half, and Norwalk freshman forward Andres Torres whipped a shot outside the right post soon after.
Greenwich sophomore midfielder/forward Ignacio Assalini took a throw-in deep on the right wing and hit the outside of the net, before Norwalk sophomore midfielder Willy Arbieto had a shot partially blocked before it became an easy scoop save for Milazzo.
“We were really motivated today,” senior defender Ezra Kuz-Dworzak said. “We did things as a team, and today we became a good team. We could’ve taken the forfeit, but we wanted to show people how good we are. Nothing on this team is about individuals, it’s all about team.”
Senior midfielder Marko Patrk set up the goal that put Greenwich ahead 2-1 with 26:59 left in the game. Patrk sent a terrific entry pass to sophomore midfielder/forward Ignacio Assalini, and Assalini split a pair of defenders before chipping the ball past Hurd.
Norwalk evened the score 2:34 later off a free kick taken by senior midfielder Connor Prescott from 45 yards away. In the crowd in front of the goal, Arbieto managed to head a shot behind Milazzo to make the score 2-2.
Amen hit the left post from 30 yards out with 18:40 remaining, but Greenwich found the back of the net once more with 10:09 to play.
Senior defender Cristian Parra sent a diagonal pass from the top of the box on the left side, and Pino used a sliding chip to keep the play alive. Deus slammed the ball into the netting to let the Cardinals escape with the win.
Laughton cited the efforts of his defenders — Kuz-Dworzak, Connor and Colin Prescott, Tyler Collins and Tommy Garcia — as well as Arbieto and junior midfielder Matt Surace in the midfield, and forwards Arteaga and Machado.
“We never enjoy a loss, but what I was looking for was intensity and effort, and we showed that tonight,” Laughton said. “A lot of guys stepped up, and we’re heading in the right direction.”
© 2007 – The Hour Newspaper