WATERTOWN — Playing for the Naugatuck Valley League boys soccer title became so common it just seemed like part of Naugy’s schedule — until the last two seasons, when the ‘Hounds were upended in the semifinals in 2011 by Woodland and 2012 by Torrington.
Naugatuck returns to the title game Wednesday night to face Torrington. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. The Raiders knocked out Naugy in last year’s semifinals.
The Greyhounds reached the title game by disposing of Wolcott in last Saturday’s NVL quarterfinals and Watertown in Monday’s semifinals by identical 5-0 spreads.
Joe Martins led Naugatuck with two goals in the win over the Eagles. Adam Branco, Fernando Branco and Candido Carrelo added goals and goalkeeper Fez Pereira recorded four saves.
On Monday, the Greyhounds smothered the Indians with a defensive presence that allowed very few opportunities. Adam Branco led the offense with two goals, including his 80th and 81st career goals to set the new all-time school record that was held by Ryan Kinne.
Fernando Branco, Joe Martins and Dan Silva added goals with Ygor Silva, Benjamin Reinhard, Josh Corbo and Diogo Cruz lending assists. Pereira had three saves to record his ninth shutout of the season for the 18-0 ‘Hounds.
It’s all about a winning tradition as Naugatuck competes for the NVL title for the 14th time in the last 17 years, having already taken home 11 titles. It starts with a coaching staff that bleeds Garnet and Grey. Head coach Art Nunes, in his 19th season, was a Naugy captain on the 1972 team. Assistant coach Mingo Branco was a captain on the 1981 Greyhounds and assistant coach Brian Mariano was captain of the 2000-01 teams that won four NVL titles in his career.
“We came into this tournament with a real workman attitude,” said Nunes prior to Wednesday’s title match. “No one spoke about NVL titles or anything like that. We just wanted to come out and take on the team that was in front of us. The last time we entered this tournament undefeated was in 2002, when we won the NVL and the state championship. No one is predicting anything like that because you have to have an awful lot of luck to pull off something like that. We are just focusing on one game at a time and it starts with our defense.”
Naugatuck came right out Monday and swarmed to the ball, limiting Watertown’s touches. Reinhard and Devon Curtis turned sideline runs towards the middle of the field where Saad and Tingstad converged to take away possessions.
Jason Szarzynski, Facundo Coitino and Cruz took up positions at midfield to help the ‘Hounds settle possessions to set up attacks into Watertown territory. Ygor Silva sent a high kick across the front of the goal and with 28:07 left in the first half Fernando Branco laid a header for the 1-0 lead. Joe Martins planted a direct kick into the back of the net at the 13:52 mark to give Naugatuck a 2-0 lead at the half.
“When we work the ball from the middle to our wings and back again we are successful,” Nunes said. “We got away from that in the last part of the first half and we talked about that during the break to try and correct that.”
Naugatuck came out with a sense of urgency in the second half and scored two goals in the first 10 minutes to build a 4-0 lead. Nunes began to make wholesale changes in the lineup after Adam Branco set the all-time goal mark to make it 5-0 with 12 minutes remaining.
Maurycio DaSilva, Dan Mendes, Abdul Gadoush and Dave Ruela took up defensive positions with Rabbi Ahmed taking over in goal. Andrew Carrol, Adam Antunes, Mike Campos and Marcus Ruff controlled the midfield with Felipe Dutra and Yunis Yilmoz attacking the Watertown end.
“You can’t afford to look past anyone at this time of year,” Nunes said. “This is the time of year where you give it all you got, play as hard as you can for as long as you can.”
The ‘Hounds will be the top seed in the Class L state tournament, which begins next week.