NAUGATUCK — It’s official. The quest for the mustache has begun in earnest. The Naugatuck boys’ soccer team escaped Crosby by a 1-0 margin in the season opener, kicking off what the Greyhounds hope will be a successful NVL title bid. After all, the NVL crown carries with it the privilege of shaving Nunes’ iconic moustache.
For the ‘Hounds, winners of four straight NVL titles, the chances of Nunes going with a bare lip come Thanksgiving are pretty high.
But Crosby, one of the clear favorites in Waterbury’s recent all-city soccer jamboree, came to Naugatuck on Tuesday for the season opener and gave the Hounds fits.
It took a late goal with 9:34 left to play that gave the Hounds the lead as the defense held on for the slim margin of victory.
On an indirect kick about 40 yards out, Adam Branco gained possession and dribbled straight towards the Crosby goal, splitting two defenders. As a third defender closed in, Branco ripped off a shot that glanced off one of the defenders.
Richard Mitchell charged in from the left side just past the post, controlling the rebound and let go of a blast that got by Bulldogs goalie Ramazan Sinani. The Greyhounds raced over to the far side to gather for a high five meeting as the Naugatuck student section whooped it up.
Then the Greyhounds needed to hold on to their one goal advantage, and Dan Bronko was a force at midfield, keeping Crosby from gaining possessions. When the Bulldogs did manage to get one into the Naugatuck end of the field, Riker Mitchell chased down the attacker and took away the opportunity.
Naugatuck came into the season opener a little less than 100 percent with senior forward Marcos Soares out with an injury. That allowed Crosby to key on the Greyhounds’ All-American forward senior Tiago Martins.
Ifran Shkembi and Jahir Gonzalez double-teamed Martins everywhere he went on the field, limiting his touches. Naugatuck still was able to control much of the action while gaining second chances and holding a clear edge in time of possession.
“These Waterbury schools are getting so much better,” Nunes said. “The stronger they get, the better off the rest of the league is going to get. This is the kind of competition I expect from a lot of the Waterbury schools.
“Dan (Bronko) did a super job for us at midfield using his size and playing smart,” he continued. “Defensively we played well, but there are a few things we need to fix offensively. But all in all, I thought we did a good job.”
Naugatuck goalkeeper Mike Leona, who recorded two saves, didn’t have to stop a lot of shots, but he did manage to keep the Bulldogs in check with a couple of balls that were tipped over the top of the crossbar.
Nolan Kinne and Jason Goja teamed up to create a few opportunities as Naugatuck had a 17-3 edge with shots on goal, but the Crosby defense, led by Rron Bersha, was relentless.
Jack DeOliveira took the spot of Marcos Soares but couldn’t connect with Martins, who was double- and triple-teamed all game long. Ruben Ferreira and Josh Corbo came on to try and give the Hounds an added push on offense.
Defenders Ignasio Ponce and Andres Jimenez closed off the outside and pushed the Bulldogs to the middle of the field, only to have Bronko use his physical size to take it away.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock, it was clear that even at less than 100 percent, Naugatuck is a team to be reckoned with—but so is the Crosby squad.
The Hounds were scheduled for a 7 p.m. game at Wolcott Friday.