BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys’ soccer team beat Ansonia 5-3 at home Friday evening, securing their spot in the state playoffs and taking them one step closer to Naugatuck Valley League tournament contention.
The Hawks have made it into states for the last three years, but have never made it past the first round.
If they continue to play as strongly as they did on Friday, this might be the year Tony Moutinho’s squad breaks the mold.
The team moved from a 4-4-2 formation, back to front, to a 3-4-3 one. Moutinho, the head coach, said this helped the offense punch through more often and create more chances.
Moutinho adjusted to the new formation by playing defender Calvin Day at forward, and his inexperience showed. He was called off-sides at least five times over the course of the match.
But even though some of these calls were on beautiful balls into Ansonia’s danger zone, Day’s forward aggression didn’t hurt the team in the long run. In fact, he managed to muscle through the Ansonia defense to score twice.
“He’s still learning the position,” Moutinho said. “But he’s very aggressive, very physical, so we figured we’d see if it worked, and it turned out to our advantage today.”
Christian Pinho, Eric Dietz, and Matt Moutinho each scored once, and keeper Damien Giordano continued to show his skill as he recorded ten saves and let only two past— one in regular play and one off a penalty kick after Adam Baz slide-tackled an Ansonia striker from behind inside the box.
Speedy Ansonia forward Standley Jean-Baptiste posed the only real threat to Woodland’s defense. He was the one who enjoyed the penalty kick after impelling Baz’s botched tackle, and he played a number of balls into the box, only to be rejected by Baz and Giordano.
“It was a tough game, tougher than I anticipated,” Moutinho said. “Especially after we took the 2-0 lead and they kept pressing, pressing, pressing; they kept us on our toes the whole game.”
The young Woodland squad doesn’t stand much of a chance beyond the first round of the state playoffs, but the Naugatuck Valley League tournament might be another story.
“We’re still fighting for the NVLs … we’re looking for at least the eight-spot,” Moutinho said. “Pretty much there’s six teams competing for that spot, but we’re in the driver’s seat. We control our own destiny.”
With the exception of the Naugatuck Greyhounds (12-0-1) and the Watertown Indians (11-1-1), the teams that make it into the tournament should be on relatively equal footing.
“Anybody can lose to anybody, anybody can beat anybody,” Moutinho said, “… you’ve got two tier teams, Watertown and Naugatuck— they’re the teams on their own— then you’ve got everyday else … they’re the top two teams, but on any given day they can be beaten like anybody else.”