By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
WESTPORT — Whenever the Norwalk and Staples boys soccer teams get together, a hard-fought battle on the pitch usually ensues.
Tuesday was no exception as the Wreckers grabbed a one-goal lead at halftime before the Bears answered in the second half in what turned out to be a 1-1 tie at Loeffler Field.
“It’s a typical rivalry game,” said Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton, whose squad won last year’s encounter 1-0. “Every time we play Staples it’s always a good game and it’s close. I think people definitely saw an entertaining game until the end.”
The Bears, who started off the season 1-4, has only one loss in their loss four games with their record currently standing at 2-5-2. Meanwhile, the Wreckers, who were coming off their biggest win of the season in a 3-0 shutout of defending FCIAC champion Fairfield Ludlowe on Friday, are now 6-1-2.
It looked as if Staples had carried over the momentum of the Ludlowe win into Tuesday because the Wreckers dominated the first half over the Bears. They had four corner kicks and six shots on goal, with one shot finding the back of the net.
“This was disappointing on our side,” said Staples head coach Dan Woog, who also noted Norwalk is much better than its record would indicate. “When you have a lead you never want to give it up. I thought we played a real good first half and I’m sure Chris ripped them a new one at halftime with his kids and they came out and got the equalizer.
“It’s a great rivalry,” he added. “We respect the hell out of Chris and Norwalk. We always have nail biters, no matter what the records are.”
Spencer Daniels made things happen as he capitalized on a failed clearance by the Norwalk defense. He pressured goalie Tyler Dalton, who tried to kick the ball away but Daniels blocked it and gathered up the rebound before blasting a shot into the bottom left corner near post at 12:31 into the contest.
Daniels, a junior, said he was trying to be aggressive and it paid off but was disappointed, along with his teammates, with the tie.
“Norwalk’s a good team and we knew that because they beat us last year 1-0,” he said. “They wanted it more and played harder than us in the second half. We have some stuff to work on.”
Laughton said his team responded well in the second and put a lot more pressure on the Staples defense. That pressure yielded the equalizer at 52:51.
Nick Guzman played the ball into Anthony Hernandez on the right wing. Hernandez had some open space and found Sebastian Echeverri with the cross in the middle of the box and he booted the ball into the left corner far post past goalie Noah Schwaeber.
“I felt great because I helped the team and was able to tie the game up,” said Echeverri, who is Columbian and isn’t fluent in English, through teammate and interpreter Jose Carvajal.
Each had its fair share of chances thereafter yet couldn’t hit the target. Dalton (10 saves) and Schwaeber (three) had a large say in that regard because they weren’t going to let anything past them the rest of the way.
Woog said his team needs to play a full 80 minutes and communicate better in the back. The coach praised the play of Daniels, Schwaeber, Daniel Brill and Kenji Goto and Josh Berman in the back.
Laughton, meanwhile, said his team has improved over the last five games and he’s hoping it continues. He lauded the performances of George Kutrubis, Loizos Karaiskos and Esteven Restrepo in the back and Hernandez.
“We feel good that we came back and we fought,” said UConn-bound Kutrubis, who was all over the field for the Bears. “This season we’ve had a lot of trouble showing fight in the game, so we definitely did that a lot today. It sucks that we gave up an early goal and we wanted to win but we’ll take a tie instead of a loss.
“Staples has a great legacy and tradition,” he added. “They’re always a great team, very physical and athletic. It’s a game to get up for, like on Thursday against McMahon.”
The Wreckers play host to Darien at 4 p.m. on Thursday while Norwalk hosts rival McMahon at 7:15 p.m.