NVL soccer titans duel to 2-2 draw

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Woodland’s Adam Baz looks to pass as Watertown’s Enri Duka moves in to defend Monday in Watertown. The Hawks and Indians battled to a 2-2 to tie. RA ARCHIVE

WATERTOWN — Halfway through the regular season, the Woodland boys soccer team remains undefeated. But after Monday night’s game at defending Naugatuck Valley League champion Watertown, the Hawks are no longer perfect.

Woodland tied the Indians, 2-2, and even though it wasn’t a win, the result showed the Hawks’ ability to compete as the top team in the league, even when under pressure in the worst kind of conditions.

The Hawks never led but rallied twice to tie the match, including Mike Segala’s penalty kick late in the second half to knot the score at 2-2, which held up through a pair of overtime periods.

Watertown was quick and forceful as the game opened, keeping Woodland goalkeeper Marc Beaulieu quite busy. Beaulieu and Patrick Dietz combined for 13 saves.

The game then settled into a gridlock at midfield until later in the first half, as more and more action by the Woodland goal finally produced an Arian Hoxha header off of a corner kick by Doug Sasso with a minute left in the first half. Watertown took the lead, 1-0.

“We have been winning every game so easily,” Woodland coach Tony Moutinho said. “We haven’t been challenged yet because obviously we have played weaker teams so we have been scoring within the first five minutes every game. Today we didn’t score in the first few minutes, so the kids were letting down. So I told them, ‘It’s no big deal. We have 40 minutes. We’ll score now.’ And they came back strong.”

Woodland certainly came back strong in the second half—as did the rain—playing more aggressively on both sides of the ball. It was almost as if the inclement weather only sharpened the Hawks’ drive to show that they really were the team to beat.

It took Woodland about halfway through the second half to really get going, tying the game 1-1 after Matt Moutinho’s blocked header wound up at the feet of Mike Costa, who booted it in for the score.

The goal marked the only point in the game in which Watertown goalkeeper Dan Hughes failed to remain on point and focused. He ended up with 16 saves for the night.

The first tie was short lived. Roughly three minutes later, Watertown’s Arian Hoxha scored his second goal of the night to take the lead at 2-1.

Woodland’s Eric Dietz leaps over Watertown goalie David Hughes after Hughes deflected a shot Monday night in Watertown. The Hawks and Indians came into the game as title contenders for the NVL crown and dueled to a 2-2 draw. RA ARCHIVE

It wasn’t until Segala’s penalty kick late in the second half that Woodland would come to tie Watertown once again. The score remained through two overtime periods that saw both teams physically exhausted.

The tie certainly proved one thing for Moutinho.

“[Our 7-0 start] was for real,” he said.

Still, Moutinho couldn’t help but considering a different outcome, while at the same time pinpointing what factors kept Woodland from securing the win.

“I wanted to win this game, too,” Moutinho said. “I thought we were going to go all the way. But obviously they’ve been scouting us and they matched up … very well. But we had our chances. Their keeper just kept them in the game. He had a tremendous game today. There wasn’t much we could do.”

The upcoming schedule doesn’t get easier for the Hawks. They host Naugatuck on Friday afternoon and visit Holy Cross on Monday.