Hounds to play for fifth-straight NVL crown

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Naugatuck's Marcos Soares looks to get by Kennedy's Jaoa Dias during Monday's NVL semifinals at Watertown. The Hounds blew out the Eagles, 6-1.

WATERTOWN – The Naugatuck boys’ soccer team playing Kennedy in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament semifinal might seem like a historical mismatch. On the turf of the Mills Complex in Watertown Monday night, it was indeed a lopsided affair as the top-seeded Hounds thumped the Eagles, 6-1, to advance to another NVL title game.

Naugy hopped out to a quick, 2-0 lead by the sixth minute of the game thanks to goals by Jason Goja and Marcos Soares and coasted from there, blowing out Kennedy for the opportunity to win a fifth-straight NVL championship Wednesday night at Municipal Stadium.

Goja netted the first goal from the right side of the 18-yard box on a ground strike that just nicked the left post and deflected into the goal, giving Naugy a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.

“Once we got the first goal, they had to spread it out a little to get it back even,” Naugatuck coach Art Nunes said. “They were never able to box back up and we scored our second goal because they were spread out.”

That second goal came just 45 seconds later when Adam Branco struck a perfect ball on a corner kick to Soares, who was waiting on the left side of the six-yard box and had a wide-open left side of the net for the second goal.

Kennedy tried to make it interesting when it cut the deficit in half in the 15th minute on a goal by John Atugful. Atugful seized the opportunity presented to him when Naugy goalkeeper Dan Bronko collided with a defender and Atugful beat Bronko to the end line to sneak in the goal.

“Their guy made a good play,” Nunes said. “It was a good ball. There was some miscommunication between our back and our keeper and the kid took advantage of it. That’s what a good player does.”

The pesky Eagles kept the score 2-1 for about 10 minutes until Tiago Martins got involved for the first time in the 24th minute. Soares drew attention driving into the 18-yard box, made a nice stop-move, and passed to an open Martins, who fired a laser into the left side of the net to re-extend the lead to two goals.

The Hounds cruised in the second half as Martins, Ryan Silva, and Iseque Monteiro added goals to seal the victory with plenty of time remaining. The blowout allowed Nunes to bring in substitutes early, which he felt was a benefit to his team.

“It works to our advantage,” Nunes said. “In cold weather like this and with the little nicks and bumps you get in a game like this, it works to get the kids out a little early and rest a little bit.”

Now, Naugatuck is in a familiar spot—playing for the NVL championship. The Hounds were scheduled to face Watertown for the title Wednesday night at Municipal Stadium. The hunger for a fifth-straight title might not seem very strong, but Nunes says the importance exists.

“At the beginning of the year, we look at the senior class and the very first question at the very first practice is, ‘Do you guys want to be remembered as the senior class that didn’t win it?’” Nunes said. “Usually the answer is, ‘Heck no.’ And that drives them and motivates them to play hard.”