Coach’s Corner: Tony Moutinho

The Woodland boys soccer program began in the fall of 2001 as a junior varsity squad with Tony Moutinho serving as the assistant coach. In 2002, Moutinho took over the reins of the very first varsity team and the Hawks were a bit over their head, going winless at 0-16.

“We barely had enough to field a team that first season,” Moutinho said. “I was a youth soccer coach in Prospect and saw some pretty good talent. I just had to be patient and wait until they got to Woodland. This year’s group of seniors has been playing soccer together since they were 6 years old.”

This season, those seniors have helped the Hawks come full circle, recording their very first undefeated campaign at 15-0-1 to win their second straight Naugatuck Valley League Brass Division title.

It took a few years of taking it on the chin before Woodland and Moutinho started to see the fruits of their labor. In 2006, Woodland made the state tournament for the first time with a 7-9 ledger. In that season, the Hawks lost seven games by slim, 2-1 margins.

After an 8-9 campaign in 2007, the Hawks reached the NVL tournament for the first time and was back in the states as well with an 11-6 record in 2008.

“Once we started to turn the corner I think the biggest challenge we faced was learning how to win the close games,” Moutinho said. “We have made the states six years in a row now but we still haven’t won a game in the postseason. We are looking forward to ending that streak this year. We have 12 seniors and a real strong defense but for the second year in a row we got a player injured in our last game.”

Nick LaPerriere is lost for the season with an injury but the Hawks have something their opponents don’t have: Eric Dietz.

Twice this season Dietz has scored five goals in a game and he continually gives Woodland the confidence it needs going down the stretch in tight games.

Last year, Woodland won its first Brass title, going 12-4 and with most of the team back, the Hawks were very optimistic coming into this year.

“The kids kept telling me that they were going to go undefeated,” said Moutinho, who along with assistant coach Izzy Oliveira, has led the Hawks to the No. 1 seed in the league tournament. “I cringed whenever they said it. I knew we had a very good team but you have to be very fortunate to go undefeated.”

One of the other stars on the team happens to be his own son, senior midfielder Matt Moutinho.

“At least I get to see him play all his games,” Moutinho said with a laugh. “Actually Matt is one of our better players and I give him a hard time when I have to. It certainly brings a lot of soccer talk to the dinner table.”

Even with the success on the field, Moutinho said he has more off-the-field goals.

“If there is one thing I would like these kids to take away from this season is to realize the importance of being a team player,” Moutinho said. “Coming together as a unit is what you will need to do to accomplish anything in life. That is one of the keys to having a successful life learning how to work together as a unit.”

Based on Woodland’s 27-4-1 record over the past two seasons, it is a lesson that Moutinho has successfully communicated to his team.