Quest for perfection ends for Greyhounds
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys soccer team saw the ending of a perfect season come a little earlier than expected last Saturday in a 2-1 overtime loss to Farmington in the quarterfinals of the Class L state tournament.
Naugy (20-1) held a 1-0 lead midway through the second half but Farmington tied it and eventually won it on a goal by Matt Sroka with just 39 seconds left in overtime.
The Greyhounds, after capturing the Naugatuck Valley League championship, earned coach Art Nunes his 300th career victory in a 2-0 win over Masuk in last Thursday’s second round.
Facundo Coitano scored the first goal against Masuk on an assist from Ygor Silva and Adam Branco put the finishing touches on the victory with a direct-kick goal in the second half as Fez Pereira secured the shutout with nine saves.
Top-seeded Naugatuck advanced to the quarterfinals and took on No. 8 Farmington (15-1-3). The Greyhounds had their hands full going up against a bigger and physical Indians squad led by Sabri Akter and Colin Cheesman.
Naugatuck played possession soccer and had the better part of it for much of the contest. Pereira (13 saves) came out fearless in the box and made several jaw-dropping stops to keep the Indians at bay.
The defense of Tyler Saad, David DeOliveira, Osmund Tingstad and Benjamin Reinhard made Farmington work hard to get advances inside the box. A battle ensued at midfield where Fernando Branco, Josh Corbo and Coitano outmuscled the Indians to loose balls.
Naugatuck had its share of opportunities with Joe Martins and Ygor Silva feeding Adam Branco for shots on goal but Farmington goalkeeper Jeffrey Crook (nine saves) was up for the challenge.
“We knew that Farmington was a big physical team but we came out and played Naugatuck soccer and didn’t change our style,” Nunes said. “The game played out pretty much the way we wanted it to go. We had some opportunities inside the box and most of their chances came from long distance.”
The Greyhounds were outshot 5-3 in the first half with only one corner while the Indians came up empty on four corner opportunities. Jason Szarzynski, Devon Curtis and Diogo Cruz came on to try to get something started but the Indians and Greyhounds went into the half scoreless.
Naugatuck finally caught a break when Martins drilled a free kick to the post from 25 yards out with 33 minutes left in regulation. Crook knocked down the initial shot but couldn’t hold on as Reinhard raced in and buried the rebound for a 1-0 Naugatuck advantage.
The turning point came when Corbo went down with an injury with about 20 minutes to go. Dave Ruela and Candido Carrelo came in, but losing Corbo eventually took its toll.
“Corbo was showing symptoms of a concussion,” Nunes said. “We played it safe and kept him out of the game. He was the centerpiece that held the team in shape and it cost us down the stretch.”
Farmington went after the opportunity and began to put pressure in the box. Pereira made a couple of point-blank saves but with 13 minutes left in regulation Cheesman unloaded an in-your-face shot that Pereira managed to fight off. As the ball got loose at the post, Akter finished it off with a blast into back into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
In the second overtime period, Sroka netted the game-winner with just 39 seconds remaining on a ball that deflected off three Naugatuck players in the box.
“As much as we hate to see this season end the future is bright for Naugatuck soccer,” Nunes said. “We are losing some very talented players but we have an awful lot coming back. This was by far the most family-orientated team we’ve had in quite a while. There was no distinction between anyone. They all played as one and for each other that is what got us as far as we did. It was an absolute pleasure to coach this team and to be around them on a daily basis.”