In the thick of things

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Naugatuck’s Candido Carrelo (6) battles with St. Paul’s Brian Rackliffe (12) Sept. 25 in Bristol. The Greyhounds won the game, 1-0. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Naugatuck’s Candido Carrelo (6) battles with St. Paul’s Brian Rackliffe (12) Sept. 25 in Bristol. The Greyhounds won the game, 1-0. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Entering the fourth week of the NVL boys soccer season the race to the top of the standings is shaping up to be one for the ages.

Several teams are clamoring to be the king of the mountain, with Naugatuck right in the mix.

The Greyhounds improved to (4-0-2) with a 3-1 win over Derby Tuesday. Andrew Carroll, Michael Campos, and Candido Carrelo provided the goals for Naugatuck.

Seymour (5-0-1) and Watertown (6-0-2) were unbeaten, as well, following their match Tuesday. There’s the Crosby Bulldogs, who started the season a surprising 6-1, and St. Paul (4-1), which suffered its first loss Sept. 25 to Naugatuck in a 1-0 decision.

Yan Silva scored the only goal Naugatuck would need against the Falcons on an assist from Mike Campos. Rabbi Ahmed registered his fourth shutout of the season in goal.

“This is a tough league this season,” Naugatuck head coach Art Nunes said. “The margin between success and failure can barely be measured. … Teams are going to be trading positions in the standings with every game that’s played heading down the stretch. This is shaping up to be an unbelievable NVL tournament.”

Naugatuck battled Oxford (2-4-1) to a 1-1 tie Sept. 22. Alex Ribeiro scored for Naugatuck to keep the game out of the loss column. The ‘Hounds settled for their second tie of the season after battling Watertown to a scoreless draw in the second game of the year.

“We are not the typical high-scoring, high-paced offense that we’ve had in the past,” Nunes said. “We have two defensive starters back and as I said at the beginning of the year that will be the strength of this team.”

Devon Curtis and Felipe Dutra lead the defense with Dave Ruela and Adam Antunes. Ahmed and back-up goalie Zack Alves have been getting the job done in keeping opponents off the scoreboard.

The defense also got a boost in the arm with the addition of first-year player Gabriel Carrelo, who just moved to the United States at the start of the school year.

“Gabriel is a welcome addition to the defense,” Nunes said. “He just moved here but he is fitting in and making a solid contribution to our defense.”

Nunes also credited the play at midfield with opening up opportunities on offense. Andrew Carroll, Yan Silva and Pedro DeSouza have played integral roles in the ‘Hounds gaining possession of 50/50 balls over the middle.

Candido Carrelo, Jake Corbo, Marco Mendes and Alex Teixeira have also been a positive influence for the unbeaten Greyhounds, but the battle for the top spot has only begun.

“I said at the start of the season that our scoring will be by committee,” Nunes said. “So far it’s been a different player each game that steps up to get the job done.

“I think at the start some kids were trying to do too much. We are starting to come together and the kids are settling into their roles. We are getting good ball movement and controlling the game but we do need to finish better than we have been.”

As the season progress, the heat will be turned up.

“Things are definitely going to start to heat up and teams are going to have to measure up or fall by the wayside,” Nunes said. “We have some tough teams to face coming up and we need to come out ready for the challenge.”

Naugatuck will host Pomperaug on Saturday at 4 p.m. and will be at Torrington Oct. 7. An NVL showdown at home with Seymour looms Oct. 9 for the Greyhounds.