Coaching career ends for soccer patriarch

Moutinho took Woodland boys from NVL cellar to championship

Woodland boys soccer coach Tony Moutinho talks with Nick Hudson (14) while keeping an eye on the action during the NVL championship game Nov. 1 at Naugatuck High School. Moutinho, who built the program, retired this month after 17 years coaching the team. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — One cold night seven years ago still stands out for Tony Moutinho as the peak of his 17-year career as Woodland High’s boys soccer coach.

It was Nov. 8, 2011, and the Naugatuck Valley League championship finally got underway after long delays caused by a freak snowstorm. Those Hawks were the best team Moutinho ever had after years of being an NVL doormat.

With a 1-1 score in the waning minutes against Watertown, Moutinho’s son, Matt, connected on a header that stood as the game-winning goal in a 2-1 championship victory. It stands as the only league title in program history.

“My son scored the winning goal — that was the highlight,” Moutinho said.

Moutinho reflected on his coaching career last week after he announced his retirement from the helm of the Woodland boys soccer program that he created. Moutinho said a change in his full-time job necessitated his stepping down, but he had mulled retiring for the last few years.

Moutinho told the team about his plans before the Hawks faced Watertown in the NVL final on Nov. 1. It was the third championship berth for Woodland in the last seven seasons.

“They couldn’t believe it,” Moutinho said. “They were like, ‘Really, Coach?’ Especially the juniors, they asked me to stay another year. I told them, ‘Let’s not lose because I don’t want this to be my last game.’”

Although Woodland suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Indians on that night, Moutinho’s final season with the Hawks was another successful one with a 14-3-3 record.

The success of the last few seasons stands in contrast to the growing pains during the program’s first decade. It was a slow climb up the NVL standings — the Hawks didn’t even reach the nine-win mark until 2008, seven years into the program’s varsity existence.

But the slow progress didn’t deter Moutinho.

“I had nothing to compare anything to — everything we did was going to be the first time,” Moutinho said. “The first year we won one (match), then three. The reward was each year we kept improving.”

Moutinho originally landed the job thanks to his background in the soccer-loving community of Prospect.

“I was coaching youth soccer in Prospect and the school was about to open (in 2001),” he said. “They said they were going to have a soccer team, so I thought, wow, this might be something I’d be interested in. I was only going to do it for a few years until my son got there, but I enjoyed it and it kept going on and on. I was going to leave after my son graduated, but I didn’t just want to leave and not know who was going to take over.”

Moutinho hopes that assistant coach Kenan Collins, a social studies teacher at Woodland, will be his successor.

“He’s a great kid, so I thought it would be a good time now,” Moutinho said.

Moutinho admitted, though, that he almost second-guessed his decision to retire.

“This year, winning our division and going to the finals was very rewarding,” Moutinho said. “I almost changed my mind after I realized I have all these kids coming back for the next year, but I don’t want to go back on my word. I know I’m going to leave it in good hands. Hopefully it’ll be an easy transition, and I told (Collins) my door is always open and I’ll give him any help he needs.”

Moutinho said his coaching experience was enriched and extended by his positive experiences with nearly all of his players and parents.

“I think I’m most proud that I helped give these kids a happier life during their school years,” Moutinho said. “I never had a hard time with any kids. I never had to punish any kids. Looking back, I’d like to get more wins if I could, but I wouldn’t have done anything different.”