Senators shut out Norwalk
By TOM EVANS
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — Tremendous defense, spectacular goalkeeping by Taso Petridis and a second-half goal from Steven Velez combined to give the Brien McMahon boys soccer team the 1-0 victory over Norwalk in a hard-fought, well-played FCIAC game Tuesday night at Jack Casagrande Field.
McMahon kept its state tournament hopes alive and improved to 5-6-1, both overall and in the conference, by winning for the fifth time in six outings.
Norwalk fell to 9-3-1 in the FCIAC and on the season. The Bears lost for just the second time in eight contests.
“It was a good effort all around tonight, especially Taso’s performance in goal,” McMahon head coach Chris Bacco said. “The defense really stepped up. Norwalk’s a good team, and we knew we’d get a tough game. I’m glad we’re back on track, and it’s nice to see the overall spread in positive play.”
McMahon had the better of the play for most of the game, with Rolando Montero’s shot in the first minute forcing Norwalk goalkeeper Alex Hurd (seven saves) to make a diving stop.
Petridis (nine saves) denied Jake Zuniga on a free shot from the left side 11 minutes into the game, and the Senators nearly cashed in on the ensuing rush. Aleko Petridis got the ball deep on the right side, and his shot went past a diving Hurd only to be stopped and cleared away by Tyler Collins.
A couple of minutes later Taso Petridis made a save on Andres Torres, and McMahon went on the attack. Kenny Coppola was wide on the left wing, and he sent a cross that Aleko Petridis headed into Hurd’s arms.
“We came out flat, and we didn’t play the way we like to play,” Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said. “We didn’t possess the ball, and we just played kick and chase. McMahon has a tough defense, and Taso played great in goal. (McMahon) wanted this game more than we did.”
Torres nearly broke the tie 10 minutes into the second half. A Zuniga free kick from 25 yards away on the right side reached Torres, but he chipped the ball outside the net. Six minutes after that Coppola kept the ball in the McMahon offensive zone, and got the ball down low on the right side to Aleko Petridis, who worked in toward the right post.
Aleko Petridis got the ball through the crease — Hurd had the ball briefly but couldn’t control it — and Velez pushed it over the goal line for a 1-0 lead with 24:52 left in the game.
“Coach told us that (Hurd) gives up some rebounds, and when he let it go I just ran in and touched it in,” Velez said. “We played hard. We wanted the win. Taso was unbelievable, and the defense was great all night. You have no idea how good this feels.”
Taso Petridis made four saves in the final 20 minutes as Norwalk kept up its pressure. Chris Puente was denied twice, and the goalkeeper frustrated Tommy Garcia with a header at the six-minute mark, then made a leaping grab of a tough-angle shot from Sean Whitteaker with under two minutes remaining.
Torres also had two more opportunities over that span, booting one shot off the outside of the right post, and he lost the ball on a terrific sliding tackle by Danny Marin.
Bacco was pleased at how his backline defense of Marin, Bryan Chacua, Bryan Hernandez and Stavros Moisiadis stayed focused in front of his keeper.
“The communication’s gotten better with the defense, and they’ve been stepping up the pressure on the ball,” Bacco said. “And Taso played great.” Laughton reminded his players that despite the tough loss, there’s still more work to do for the 2008 Bears.
“There’s still a lot of soccer to play, the season’s not over,” Laughton said. “I feel bad for the seniors. This is a game we wanted to win. But we have to finish out the year.”
The Hour Newspaper – 10/15/08