NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck boys’ soccer team has been on a mission since the start of the season. The four-time defending Naugatuck Valley League champs have even been a bit defensive, and it showed against Torrington during Tuesday’s 2-0 win at the Vet.
The Raiders spent most of the first half in front of their own goal as the Hounds held them without a shot during the game’s first forty minutes. Torrington did manage to get a few looks in the second half but goalkeeper Dan Bronko (5 saves) held them out for the Greyhounds seventh shutout of the season.
Naugatuck held a 16-5 shot-on-goal advantage with Jason Goja and Tiago Martins finding the back of the net for the 11th Greyhound victory of the season.
It marked the end of a tough stretch of games, which began last Tuesday when Nolan Kinne’s would-be winning goal against Seymour was waved off as time expired and Naugatuck had to settle for a tie.
The Greyhounds followed that up by handing head coach Art Nunes career win number 250 in a 3-0 victory over Holy Cross on Friday. A 1-1 tie to Pomperaug on Saturday kept the Greyhounds undefeated but not very satisfied, as they had earned only one victory in the last three games.
That changed in a hurry against Torrington as Naugatuck attacked every 50/50 ball and pretty much knocked Torrington out of the way. Riker Mitchell and Nolan Kinne pounced on loose balls and Luis Carvalho used his speed to take advances deep into Raiders territory.
With about 14 minutes to go in the first half, Kinne sent a crossing pass over to Martins but Torrington keeper John Abbott saved the shot at the post. Kinne stayed with it and came up with a steal but his rebound shot was batted away.
Goja then came charging into the box and sent a header up over the top of the goalkeeper and just under the crossbar for a 1-0 Naugatuck lead.
“This was the same type of game we played up there,” said Nunes, referring to the Greyhounds’ 3-1 win at Torrington a few backs ago. “We came out looking to take control of the possessions and win the 50/50 balls. In the second half we came out with a designed play to get on them board early. It’s a lot like football where you get behind the linebackers—in this case the midfielders—and find a seam in the defense.”
Naugatuck came out in the second half and scored just 37 seconds in. Kinne won a ball at midfield and steered a pass to a hard charging Martins inside the box.
The senior forward turned on his defender and let go of a shot that beat the Torrington keeper to the far post. The quick, 2-0 advantage seemed to take the steam out of Torrington’s attack.
Although the Raiders did manage a handful of shots in the second half, Bronko, who has taken over for injured starter Mike Leona, came up with all the stops he needed to make. Bronko was last year’s keeper before taking up a spot at midfield, where he’d been very effective.
When Leona went down with the injury Naugatuck didn’t miss a beat by inserting Bronko back in between the pipes. With ten minutes to play, Bronko charged out and simply took the ball away from a Torrington attacker.
With less than five minutes to play, the senior keeper came out again, avoiding a collision to take away another potential shot as Torrington was shut out for only the third time this season.
Defenders Jack DeOliveira, Andres Jimenez, Ignasio Ponce and Richard Mitchell gave Bronko all the support he needed out in front of the goal. The Greyhounds will take a much-needed rest as they gear up for the final two games of the regular season next week.
Naugatuck will be at Ansonia on Monday and will host Derby on Wednesday for a senior night celebration before the start of the NVL tournament.