The Naugatuck Greyhounds were in a 3-0 hole at the half but rallied to defeat the Woodland Hawks, 5-3, in punchy, aggressive boys’ soccer action in the Woods last Wednesday afternoon.
The loss was Woodland’s first of the season, and the Hawks have since recorded another: a 2-1 fall to Torrington on Tuesday. The Hawks stand at 9-2 and the Hounds won one more and tied another during the week to stay unbeaten and improve to 9-0-2.
The Hawks had stunned the Hounds early in Wednesday’s match, scoring all three of their goals in the first 15 minutes of play. But the Woodland squad couldn’t hold on as Naugatuck picked up the pace at the end of the first half and into the second, creating convincing scoring chances and persisting through an exciting, even-handed match.
Naugatuck coach Art Nunes said he had to shift players around to accommodate injuries and his team was caught off-guard early—and the Hawks took full advantage of the opportunity that that presented.
“People instead of stepping up just dropped their heads and sunk their shoulders,” Nunes said of the Hounds in the first half. “I think Woodland caught on to that and they came at us, and they caught us in a moment of not being prepared.”
In the second half, the Hounds scored on two penalty kicks after the Hawks had two close calls ruled against them—a foul and a hand-ball inside the box. Richard Mitchell’s late-game goal drew the tally to 3-3 before 80 minutes was up, forcing the match into overtime.
“Once we went into overtime we knew we were defeated,” said Woodland coach Tony Moutinho. “No one said it. … but you give up a 3-0 [lead], it’s hard to come back from that once you go into overtime. We were pretty much doomed at that point, I knew it.”
In one ten-minute overtime period, the Hounds managed two quick goals and sealed the Hawks’ first loss of the season shut.
“We had them in the bag and we set it slip away,” Moutinho said. “We didn’t play as well [in the second half], and we didn’t get the breaks either. It’s one of those days where everything backfires on you. We probably played a little too conservative in the second half, trying to conserve the victory, so instead of playing to win we played not to lose, and it didn’t pay off.”
Nunes had a different explanation for Naugy’s success in the second half as opposed to its submission in the first.
“It was more of our guys getting fired up and trying to get on,” Nunes said. “Woodland, I thought, played a very well-organized game and for the most part kept its composure. But the pressure built on them. The more we came in and applied pressure, the more frustrated they got and the harder it was for them to keep their composure.”
Nunes admitted his rousing halftime pep talk might have played a role, too.
“I challenged them,” he said. “I told them that they couldn’t play soft. What we’ve been telling them all along, the target is on their back. … If they don’t match their [opponents’] effort and intensity and their determination to beat us then we would get beat.”
Hawks midfielders Lumbardh Pacuku earned a yellow card late in the second half when he loosed a string of profanities and booted a game ball off the field after a close foul was called against him.
Eric Dietz, Tyler Carlos and Christian Pinho all tallied a score for the Hawks while Tiago Martins and Richard Mitchell grabbed two apiece and Adam Branco added one for the Hounds.