WATERBURY — The Kennedy Eagles played a perfectly executed 28 ½ minutes of soccer and held a 1-0 lead over Naugatuck in the Naugatuck Valley League boys opener at Municipal Stadium on Tuesday.
Naugatuck kept pressing the issue and its perseverance finally paid off. With 11:31 left in the opening half, Nolan Kinne fired a shot in the box. Kennedy defender Fjordi Mulla came up quickly on the ball and accidentally knocked it into the back of the net at the post to tie the game at 1-1.
The Greyhounds went on to outscore the Eagles, 5-1, the rest of the way to come away with a rather easy, 6-2 win.
“I wasn’t sure what Kennedy had coming back this year and set our lineup just before the game,” said Naugatuck head coach Art Nunes. “We were only using one side of the field in the early going. Once we started to use the whole field we were able to open it up a little bit. Give Kennedy credit, they were taking it to us and scored a nice goal on a breakaway. Once they made that mistake and knocked one in it took the wind out of their sails.”
Eagles forward John Atuaful made the Greyhounds’ defense pay for getting a little too close in the early going. He shifted gears as the defense closed in around him, splitting a seam and taking it in on a breakaway at the 28:20 mark of the first half.
But after the first goal by Kinne (three goals, assist), a tight, 1-1 tie became a commanding, 3-1 Naugatuck (1-0) advantage within two minutes. Adam Branco sent a corner kick into the box and the shot was stopped by the Kennedy keeper Geri Manaj. A collision caused the keeper to bobble the save and Joe Martins (two goals) was there to drive the shot to the back of the net for a 2-1 Greyhounds lead.
A minute later, Martins again was in on the scoring as he side-stepped a defender at the post and drilled one past the diving keeper to open up a 3-1 advantage.
Right before the end of the half, Kennedy (0-1) pulled out all the stops and made a mad dash into the Naugatuck end of the field. Greyhounds keeper James Bell made a tough save as the defense of Chris Szarzynski, Facundo Coitino, Manuel Olivera, and Matt Schumacher converged to take away the opportunity.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Atuaful had a clear shot at the post but Naugy’s Tyler Saad came up hard and put a header on the shot to knock it out of harm’s way.
The Eagles capitalized early in the second half with Andrew Machado scoring on a corner opportunity to close the gap to 3-2.
The Greyhounds regrouped and turned up the pressure. With 29:37 to play, Jason Goja out-leaped a defender and put a header on a ball that was steered towards the post. Kinne ducked around a defender and blasted one into the corner of the net to open up a 4-2 lead.
With 19:54 left, it was time to turn out the lights on the Eagles as Martins sent in a corner kick that found Isaque Monteiro (goal, assist) at the post. The header by Monteiro over the middle caught Kinne in full stride and the shot rippled the back of the net for a commanding 5-2 advantage.
Ten minutes later, Monteiro put the mustard on the hot dog, slamming a shot past the diving keeper on an assist from Kinne to account for the 6-2 final margin.
Naugatuck will be back in action Friday when it hosts its home opener against St. Paul at 6 p.m. The ‘Hounds then travel to Ansonia on Monday afternoon and Wolcott on Wednesday night.