WATERBURY — Using Naugatuck boys soccer captain Jason Goja’s own word, the Greyhounds made last Saturday’s Naugatuck Valley League quarterfinal “hell” on Woodland.
The No. 2 ‘Hounds dominated play, taking a 1-0 lead in the first half and adding two goals in the last 11 minutes to pull away with a 3-0 victory over the No. 7 Hawks at Municipal Stadium and advance to the league semifinals.
“We were possessing the hell out of them,” Goja said.
Goja’s goal with 10:46 to play relieved a ton of tension from the Greyhounds’ collective shoulders. Though Naugy (12-3-2) held a 1-0 lead, it couldn’t quite punch in the insurance goal — though it definitely wasn’t for a lack of chances.
Adam Branco nearly had a pair of goals within the first seven minutes of the second half and just missed a pair of headers later on but Woodland (8-7-2) goalkeeper Pat Dietz (12 saves) kept his team in it with a few outstanding saves.
Finally in the 70th minute, Goja saw an opportunity for a run down the middle and seized it, weaving through the defense and blasting a shot from 15 yards out for a 2-0 lead.
“We just had to bury one,” Goja said. “We had so many chances. Adam kept heading it but Dietz kept blocking them. When I saw that run and had that shot, I knew I had to take it.”
Naugatuck coach Art Nunes saw his sweeper’s goal as a testament to his importance to the team.
“It’s irreplaceable,” Nunes said of Goja’s presence. “Without his leadership in the back and without his willingness to go to the back and give up his opportunities to score, we wouldn’t be playing nearly as well. We have other guys getting the glory but without Jason in the back none of this would be happening.”
Branco knocked in a header off a Patrick Alves corner with 4:20 to play for the final goal. The late breakthroughs came thanks in part to the Greyhounds’ ability to start using the whole field on offense, Nunes said.
“We need to get our outsides,” Nunes said. “When we can do that, we take away guys from the middle who are guarding Adam and it opens up the opportunities for second guys to come through. Unfortunately we didn’t finish them all but when the opportunities are there, that’s great.”
Naugatuck dominated the first half, too, but only had one goal to show for it when Joe Martins cleaned up a loose ball in the 11th minute with a sharp-angle shot after a near-goal on a Branco header.
Woodland nearly tied it eight minutes later but Vigan Pacuku had his goal negated because of foul committed against goalkeeper Fez Pereira, who made three saves for Naugy.
“That’s what makes you scared to death, that one bad bounce could change everything,” Nunes said. “That made it very tense and nerve-wracking. We knew we had to maintain possession and get it to the outside and good things would happen, and eventually they did.”
Besides the nullified goal, the Hawks had few chances.
“They dominated,” Woodland coach Tony Moutinho said of Naugatuck. “They’re a better team than we are. Once they scored their goal, they stacked their defense and it was hard to penetrate. They’re a tough team and it’s hard to win a lot of those balls.”
Naugatuck will face No. 3 Torrington in the semifinal game Thursday night at Wolcott High. The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings.