Bears blank Staples
By JOHN NASH
HOUR STAFF WRITER
NORWALK — In the aftermath of Norwalk High School’s 2-0 boys soccer victory over Staples on Monday night, the two coaches had what could be called a slight difference of opinion.
“If there is a better team in the state, I don’t want to see them,” said Dan Woog, Staples head coach. “I’ve voted for them No. 1 and I will continue to do so. They’re 7-0 for a reason. There’s a good reason. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re strong, they’re relentless.”
Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton didn’t want to hear such talk. At least, not yet.
“You can’t say anybody is the best team in the state until you’re holding the state championship trophy,” the Bears boss said. “We’ve still got a long way to go. We’re only seven games in. We want to to win our last game of the season. We still have a lot of work to do before we get to that point.”
Despite those opines, however, both coaches could agree on one thing postgame: Each liked what they got out of their respective sides on Testa Field.
The Bears showed a patience that paid off coupled with a fullfledged trust in their defense, which has now pitched five shutouts in the seven wins.
Norwalk controlled much of the first half with its short, controlled passing style with Staples making the occasional run toward the box.
The Bears only managed to get three shots off in the first 40 minutes, though, while the Wreckers never got a clean enough to look to let one loose on Norwalk’s goal.
Only an outstanding save from Staples goalkeeper James Hickok (6 saves) and a deflection by a Wreckers defender on a blast from Kevin Joslyn kept the game scoreless.
Staples finally got its first shot registered 12 minutes into the second half when Harry Birch sent a direct kick into the box and Diego Alanis tried to loop the ball over Norwalk keeper Svet Kozak (2 saves).
The shot sailed both high and wide — though not by much.
Midway through the period, Norwalk’s Nacho Navarro made a perfect run through the middle and was fed a pass that put him alone on Hickok. The Staples goalkeeper came out, however, and pushed aside Navarro’s shot, keeping the goose eggs on the scoreboard.
Finally, seven minutes later, Norwalk’s patient style of play paid off.
Santiego Muriel carried the ball up the sideline and played a pass into the corner to sophomore Jose Canahui, who could have finagled himself a shot on a goal with perhaps a touch to the inside of the field.
Instead, he stepped outside and delivered a perfect pass to Michal Nowicki, who pushed the ball past Hickok to give Norwalk the lead with 13:27 to play.
“Canahui made a great run forward and played a great ball through (the defense),” said Nowicki. “I just finished it. He did all the work. He deserves all the credit. It doesn’t matter who scores. If it’s in, it’s in.” Five minutes later, Navarro gave Norwalk some breathing room.
Muriel deposited a shot on goal that deflected off a Staples defender’s leg and landed at Navarro’s feet. The senior midfielder onetouched and buried a low screamer inside the far post, pushing the lead to 2-0. “I’m proud of the guys for sticking with the game plan and playing our style of soccer, knowing eventually it would pay off,” said Laughton. “We had to wait a while to get those goals, but it was worth it in the end.” Likewise, Woog was pleased with his young team, which might have dipped to 3- 3 on the season, but showed no intimidation in facing the Bears.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” Woog said. “This was a huge step for our guys and they stepped it up big time. They stepped it up defensively, physically. Most of them went 80 minutes. I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”
While the Bears defensive unit has gotten a lot of the press this season – and rightfully so, Woog would say – the Wreckers defense proved itself to be a worthy adversary, as well.
Jordan McNair, Greg Shikowitz, Andrew Puchala, Yousef Shahin, and Ethan Bradeen had their hands full with the Bears, but did a yeoman’s job at keeping them away from a host of Grade Ascoring chances.
“Staples came at us and threw us off our rhythm a little bit,” said Laughton.
In the end, though, it was all about patience — and the same could be said for the state’s soccer fans wondering who really is the best team in the state this season.
© The Hour Newspaper