NAUGATUCK — The number of times that a Naugatuck-Woodland boys soccer game ended up being a walk in the park can be counted on one hand.
Ever since Woodland won the NVL title back in 2011 the Hawks have taken the field with a little bit of an edge to their step. Facing the two-time defending NVL champion Greyhounds last Saturday, the inexperienced Hawks gave Naugatuck a run for its money.
The ‘Hounds capitalized on two second half goals to pull away with a 3-0 victory.
“We came out and played a very good first half,” Hawks head coach Tony Moutinho said. “We are a bit young and inexperienced. We don’t have a lot of depth on the bench. So we went down a little bit in the second half.”
The Woodland defense, led by Isaac Weinstein, Matt Hopkinson and Xavier Gibson, supported goalkeeper A.J. Oliveira (four saves).
Naugatuck was just off the mark on offense early. The Greyhounds appeared to rush their possessions leading to passes that didn’t generate solid opportunities inside the Woodland end of the field.
“We came out and tried to play too fast,” said Naugatuck assistant coach Brian Mariano, who along with assistant coach Mingo Branco took up the reigns with head coach Art Nunes being out of state. “It looked like we were a little too eager to score the first goal in the first game of the season. And, that over aggressiveness actually caused us to lose our formation and we had guys out of position.”
The ‘Hounds were finding the going tough until the 5 minute mark of the first half.
Pedro DeSouza threaded a pass to Marco Mendes who found the back of the net to give Naugatuck a 1-0 lead at the break.
The ‘Hounds came out with a more controlled look in the second half. Andrew Carroll and Yan Silva scored on assists from Felipe Dutra to put the finishing touches on the 3-0 win.
The ‘Hounds defense was sound, led by Andrew Carroll, Devon Curtis, Gabriel Carrelo and David Ruela. Naugatuck goalkeepers Rabbi Ahmed (five saves) and Zack Alves (two saves) combined for the shutout.
“Our defense is always the backbone and we try and build from the back forward,” Mariano said. “With about 15 minutes left to play we brought in our backup goalie because we want to get him some experience and that will give us depth at that position later in the season.”
Despite the loss, Moutinho said the Hawks’ play versus Naugy is a confidence booster.
“I thought we played well against a very good Naugatuck team,” he said. “Going forward a performance like this is a real boost to our confidence. We had some good opportunities on offense but we were just missing that one extra touch. But we are young and they are not sure yet when to take the shot or when to continue a dribble.”
Woodland bounced back with a 3-1 overtime win Tuesday over Holy Cross. The Hawks (1-1) will be back in action Friday versus Watertown.
Naugatuck (1-0-1) tied Watertown, 0-0, Wednesday. The Greyhounds will host Kennedy, which won the Waterbury preseason Jamboree, on Friday at 6 p.m.