NAUGATUCK — The statistics that Naugatuck senior forward Adam Branco has put up in his years as a Greyhound are hard to ignore.
This season, he leads the ‘Hounds with 23 goals in just 11 games after putting 24 in the net last year as a junior. Branco has three hat tricks on the season and has scored two goals in six other games, but according to the senior co-captain that is not what makes Naugatuck a successful team.
“There is a lot of communication on this team,” Branco said. “That is what has led us to success this season, especially in the close games we’ve had. It’s not about any one player; it’s about the communication, because with that you can fix anything that may go wrong during the course of a game.”
Branco has recently scored game-winning goals with less than a minute to play in close wins over Torrington and Pomperaug to keep the Greyhounds’ undefeated season alive.
“When we put Adam in the right spot he will be successful,” Naugatuck head coach Art Nunes said. “He usually has a 60-40 chance that possessions will come out in his favor and he has learned how to get in that position by listening to Coach Mingo (Branco) and Coach (Brian) Mariano.”
Naugatuck has a strong defense led by captains Tyler Saad and Dave DeOliveira along with Benjamin Reinhard and Osmund Tingstad. The scoring has also been spread around with Fernando Branco and Dan Silva scoring six goals each. Ygor Silva leads the team with 13 assists and Joe Martins has added five assists and scored two goals.
Josh Corbo (three goals), Dan Mendes (two goals), Jason Szarzynski, Facundo Coitino, Abdul Gadoush and Felipe Dutra have also found the back of the net this season for the ‘Hounds.
Last Tuesday in Naugatuck the Greyhounds showed the tenacity that has them unbeaten in the Naugatuck Valley League as they fought off a scrappy Wilby team by a 3-1 margin. The Wildcats got on the board first with 32:06 remaining in the first half when Matias Avila assisted on Djaison Fonseca’s goal.
“Wilby is a very strong and competitive team,” Nunes said. “Their skill level, speed and strength has really improved. They managed to put a couple of balls in on us and that caused us some problems early on. When we took it outside away from their strength we were able to open up some opportunities and we took the lead. The thing about this year’s team is the heart and soul and determination of this team. They play right up till the final horn and that is what is going to win you those close games.”
With 18:28 left in the first half, Adam Branco received a pass from Dan Silva in the box and despite a physical hit by the defender Branco managed to strike one to the back of the net while lying on the turf to tie the game at 1-1.
Fez Pereira (five saves) shut out Wilby the rest of the way in the net for Naugy. The ‘Hounds began to maintain possession at midfield where Dave Ruela, Diogo Cruz and Adam Antunes outworked the Wildcats to the loose balls.
In the opening minute of the second half Naugatuck took the lead at 2-1 when Dan Silva alertly rushed in to slam home a rebound shot to the far right post.
The Greyhounds turned up the pressure with Felipe Dutra and Yunis Yilmoz coming in to keep Wilby out of the Naugatuck end for much of the second half. Ygor Silva sent a penalty kick into the back of the net with nine minutes remaining for the 3-1 margin.
“We have all been playing together since youth soccer,” Adam Branco said. “We know each other’s strengths and where we are going to be on the field. When it comes down to crunch time, the discipline and the playing together along with the communication is what makes us such a successful team.”
Naugatuck stayed perfect at 13-0 with a 6-1 win over Sacred Heart and a 4-0 win over Kennedy last week. The Greyhounds host St. Paul at 6p.m. on Tuesday.