ANSONIA — The Naugatuck boys soccer team finds itself in a position with which it is not very familiar. With Monday’s 5-2 loss at Ansonia, the 2010 Naugatuck Valley League runner-up and winner of 11 of the last 14 NVL championships is saddled with a 1-2 record.
The Greyhounds’ loss to the Chargers was Naugy’s second-straight defeat. This the first time in head coach Art Nunes’ 17-year tenure that his team has been below .500 after the first week.
“I can’t remember a team that was 1-2 after the first week of the season in all my years,” said Nunes. “But like I said at the beginning of the year and no one would listen, we are not the same team as we have been in the past. We are a young and inexperienced team. We are going to take our lumps. But as a coaching staff it’s our job to get these younger players to come together and play as a unit.”
Young or not, the ‘Hounds resembled the heart of teams past as they stared down the barrel of a 3-0 deficit in Ansonia. With 19:49 left in the game, Naugatuck struck out of nowhere to score two goals in under a minute and make it a game.
Adam Branco steered a corner kick to Ygor Silva at the left side of the box as the Ansonia defense collapsed on the ball. Silva wound up and fired a shot to the back of the net to put the ‘Hounds on the board.
Less than a minute later, Branco lined up for a free kick from 25 yards out. He tapped the ball to Nolan Kinne who dished it back to Branco. The line-drive shot snuck below the crossbar at the left post with Ansonia keeper Mike Palmquist in full extension trying to deny the attempt.
Suddenly, it was a 3-2 game and Ansonia was pressing to maintain the advantage. Matt Bode (seven saves) turned back two Charger attempts inside the box at the 12-minute mark.
The contest went down to the final two minutes when Ansonia added an insurance goal. Steven Fiallos sent a free kick just under the crossbar and out of the outstretched reach of Bode to up the advantage to 4-2.
A minute later, the game was over as Albert Kwaskiewicz rippled the back of the net for the 5-2 final margin.
Ansonia used a pressing defensive presence in the early going to keep the ‘Hounds off their mark and limit chances inside the box. Naugatuck showed the ability to move the ball within scoring range but didn’t have the capacity to finish what they started.
With only 3:15 gone in the game, the Chargers caught a break and got one by goalkeeper James Bell. Darby Kaneen got inside the box and drew a crowd of Naugatuck defenders.
Kaneen alertly quick kicked it to Andrew Salazar, who was breaking in from the right of the box, and the shot eluded Bell at the far post for a 1-0 Chargers lead.
At the 13-minute mark, Kaneen had defenders draped over him when he sidestepped a player and got a pass off to a hard-charging Salazar through the middle. The shot went in just under the crossbar for a 2-0 Charger lead.
With eight minutes left in the first half, Naugatuck had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. On three-straight possessions, the ‘Hounds had corner kick opportunities but came away empty due to the relentless attack of the Chargers’ defense.
Eight minutes into the second half Ansonia caught a break to up the margin. The referee ruled a free kick opportunity on a takedown in the box and that infuriated Nunes.
Kwaskiewicz drilled the free kick high to the crossbar. Bode leaped to defend the shot but as it came down Juan Fernandez was there to bury it into the back of the net for a staggering 3-0 Ansonia lead.
Nunes objected to the ruling to no avail.
“I was trying to get my team fired up,” Nunes said. “I wanted to show them that I was there sticking up for them.”
That may have done the trick as just 10 minutes later Naugatuck scored its two goals to make a game of it.
Naugatuck will try to push back over .500 this week. After visiting Wolcott on Wednesday, the ‘Hounds host Crosby on Friday night before visiting Watertown, the defending league champion, on Tuesday evening.