NHS edges McMahon
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — The Norwalk High boys soccer team needed a positive result, and quickly, if it wanted to turn things around.
The Bears came into Friday night’s intra-city rivalry game against Brien McMahon with a 3-5-3 record, very un-Norwalk-like considering the success of the program the last few years. To make matters worse, the Senators were playing some of their best soccer and riding a three-game winning streak.
The clash between the rivals may have been just what the Bears needed as they made a goal off a set piece stand up and played stifling defense on their way to a 1-0 FCIAC victory over a gutsy McMahon side in a tough and physical encounter in front of a big crowd at Casagrande Field.
Norwalk is now 4-5-3 while the Senators slipped to 5-7.
“I’m really happy for the guys,” said Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton, whose team has won four straight over the Senators. “We’ve had an up-and-down season so far and hopefully this is something that will give us some momentum going into the end of the season. Something like this proves that they can play at a high level for 80 minutes and also getting that taste of winning a big inner-city rivalry game, that’s always going to give you some momentum.”
Jose Canahui netted his second game-winning goal of the season when he scored off a free kick by Jon Ceja with just under two minutes left until halftime.
It was an evenly matched first half, with both teams making runs at the other team’s goal, and it seemed there would be a scoreless deadlock at intermission.
Canahui came down the middle of the field with the ball in McMahon’s end and was taken down from behind, resulting in a free kick. Ceja took the free kick, from around the 30-yard line, and booted it right to Canahui on the right side.
With the defense set up to defend the left side of the field, Canahui went unmarked and when the ball came to him, he played it off his left leg and rifled a right-footed shot to the far post. The ball sailed into the bottom left corner of the net, past goalie Roberto Vargas, for the lone goal of the game.
“I’m proud that it was the winning goal of the game,” said Canahui, a junior captain who was a force on both sides of the ball the entire game. “It’s always a fight with McMahon. They’re a great team and they’ll always give us a fight like tonight.”
Said Laughton, “It’s fitting that he got the goal there. He’s the hardest working kid, day in and day out, and he made a great play with a great finish.”
Just 35 seconds later, Cory Sainsmyr had a great scoring chance when he slipped through the defense with Vargas out of the box but his chip shot sailed wide left of the goal.
Those were the top scoring chances for the Bears as the rest of the game turned into a more of a defensive struggle.
“We played with heart and I’m proud of the way they played,” said McMahon head coach Ben Ingalls, who noted his team was the most focused it had been all year. “We caught a bad break, made one mistake and they (Norwalk) made us pay for it.”
In the second half, McMahon tried desperately to net the equalizer but they were thwarted by Norwalk’s stout defensive line, led by Sergio Mandujano, Brody O’Brien, Loizos Karaiskos and Robert Gryglewski. Laughton praised the quartet for their leadership in the back and their aggressiveness.
The Senators had their fair share of defensive standouts as well and Ingalls lauded the play of Justin MacIntyre and Jonathan Weeks.
“We felt we’ve been playing good ball, having won three in a row, and we came in here with intensity but we didn’t get the right outcome,” said MacIntyre, a senior captain. “We have to turn it around and forget this game. We need to win a game and a half more to get to states.”
Norwalk goalie Tyler Dalton finished with five saves, four in the second half, and Vargas made three saves. McMahon had a 3-2 edge in corner kicks.
Both teams are still alive for the state playoffs and even the FCIAC playoffs may still be in reach for the Bears.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Laughton said. “We’re hoping that we can win out the rest of the way. It’s going to be tough with some quality teams left. If we can play with the emotion and intensity we played with tonight I think we can do it.”
© 2013 The Hour Newspaper.