Rebuilding Norwalk stays unbeaten in boys soccer
By Emery Filmer
STAMFORD — In the world of Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference boys soccer, there are “rebuilding jobs,” and then there are REBUILDING JOBS.
This season Norwalk head coach Kurt Simonsen figured he’d be dealing with the former after the Bears lost eight senior starters off last year’s squad, which reached the FCIAC championship game.
Trinity Catholic’s Bob Pepi, meanwhile, is faced with the latter following a winless season and with a roster that includes just three seniors at a school with the league’s smallest enrollment of boys.
Yesterday’s result at Trinity showed the type of discrepancies involved in the two tasks at hand:
The “rebuilding” Bears easily won the contest, 5-0, to remain undefeated after seven games this season. The REBUILDING Crusaders, who played well for the first 20 minutes, dropped their seventh straight game this season and can probably count the number of victories the program has had in the last eight seasons on one hand.
“It’s tough,” Pepi said. “Our only players who have experience playing soccer are our freshmen. We have three seniors: one is our goalie (Scott Barden), another is our best player (Luigi Altamura), but he’s injured (knee) and has to sit out a lot. So we have one senior out there on the field (Alex Jordan) playing against a team that has all seniors. It’s very difficult.”
The 0-7 Crusaders are admittedly light years away from respectability in a league that is perennially considered one of the strongest in the state. The Bears (5-0-2), meanwhile, are one of three remaining unbeaten teams left in the 19-team FCIAC, despite the loss of those eight starters, and nine seniors in all.
“I didn’t think we’d be undefeated after seven games, but we still have a long way to go,” said Simonsen whose team was led by Anthony Fraioli yesterday. Fraioli had two goals and assisted on another.
The season hasn’t even reached the halfway point, but already it looks as though Simonsen’s rebuilding job was of a different ilk than Pepi ‘s. The Bears, who lost last year’s FCIAC final to Bridgeport Central, have already beaten Trumbull and tied Greenwich this season. Those two FCIAC championship contenders are a combined 8-2-3 thus far.
“I didn’t know what to expect this season but the kids have worked hard and stayed focused,” Simonsen said. “They really believe they can compete every day in this league. It’s more of a mentality than anything else.”
That mentality took a while to kick in yesterday as the pesky Crusaders played the Bears relatively even during the game’s first 20 minutes.
“It took us a while to get used to the small and compact field,” Fraioli said.
Norwalk did manage to take a 1-0 lead six minutes into the contest when Ronald Machado received a nice centering pass from Fraioli and blasted it past a helpless Barden, who finished with 12 saves, many of which were challenging.
After that, though, the Crusaders, led by forwards Jordan and Mario Roman, pressured the Bears and had several opportunities against Norwalk goalkeeper Michael Surace (3 saves), but came up empty.
“This is a better Trinity team than I’ve seen in past years,” Simonsen said. “They look much more organized.”
“We have more talent than we’ve had before,” Pepi added. “We play very well in pieces, so there’s promise, as long as we don’t get too down on ourselves. When you don’t win, that can happen.”
The Bears, and especially Fraioli, did not let their slow start bother them.
“After we started slowly, Coach took me out because my touches were not too good,” Fraioli said. “Then I scored a couple of goals and it was a pretty easy game for us from there.”
Six minutes after Mike Fraioli knocked home a goal from 10 yards out in the 20th minute, Anthony Fraioli slipped a shot from the left side into the right corner for a 3-0 lead.
Anthony Fraioli then took a pass from Yves Jean-Baptiste and broke in a alone for a goal at the 32-minute mark.
The Bears completed the scoring with 17 minutes remaining in the second half on a penalty kick by Matt Mitchell after he was pulled down 15 yards in front of the goal.
“I know we lost a lot of players, but I definitely thought this was possible,” Anthony Fraioli said. “I knew we could get back to where we were.”
Bob Pepi wishes his rebuilding job was that easy.
Copyright © 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.