In the early part of the season, Staples squandered a pair of leads.
The Wreckers tightened up their defense. But recently — despite playing well — they’ve been unable to score.
When Greenwich came to muddy Loeffler Field this afternoon, the blue-and-whites knew they needed to play 80 minutes of strong soccer. And they needed a goal.
It would not be easy. The Cardinals were 6-1-1 — unbeaten since a 3-1 loss to Norwalk on opening day.
The lessons of yesterday’s training session — devoted to shooting — were on Staples’ mind. Less than 3 minutes in, Yousef Shahin won a ball in the back. He fed Joe Greenwald, who raced forward and unleashed a 40-yard blast. It beat the keeper — but caromed off the underside of the crossbar.
That’s the type of play the Wreckers have not capitalized on all year. This time, Diego Alanis followed up on the shot. He was in perfect to position to bang the rebound home — and he did.
The quick strike galvanized Staples. Ethan Bradeen and Jordan McNair sent Greenwald in; he shot wide. A Greg Shikowitz stick led to another Greenwald counter.
Much of the 1st half was played in Greenwich’s defense. But the Cards boasted a long throw, and it tested keeper James Hickok. Laser-focused, the Dartmouth-bound co-captain made a huge save in traffic, then late in the half came out to snag a corner kick.
Defenders Shahin, Shikowitz, Bradeen, Jack Scott and Andrew Puchala pushed up well. Harry Birch covered a wide swath of territory, and distributed cleverly. Also working hard: freshman midfielder Joe Pravder, making his 1st-ever start.
At halftime, the Wreckers vowed to keep pressing. With the defense still vigilant — Bradeen cleared one ball off the line, and Hickok punched out another corner kick — Staples’ attack never faltered.
Andrew Travers and Ryan Petersen came on to provide sparks up top, while Connor Weiler and Sam Koenig did the same at midfield.
Birch and Greenwald provided key on-field leadership, particularly in the final minutes as the Westporters stayed strong.
“This was a big win,” Staples head coach Dan Woog said. “And it was a team win — huge props to all the guys who work hard in training, and keep us sharp.
“The conditions weren’t great, but there was great focus that overcame the mud. Players covered for each other; they communicated well; they executed everything we’ve worked on — and most of all, they believed in themselves and their teammates.
“The FCIAC race is wide open. We’ve got another huge test on Wednesday (Darien, home, 4 p.m.), but we look forward to it. These are the kinds of games Staples soccer players love.” Final score: Staples 1, Greenwich 0. Season record: 4-3-1.
QUICK KICKS: Staples led in shots, 7-5. Both teams had 4 corner kicks….
The junior varsity fell 3-0 to undefeated Greenwich. The Wreckers played very well in the 1st half, and Andreas Bru’s shot hit the post. They continued strongly into the 2nd half, but after the Cards’ 1st goal — upper 90 — they pulled away….
The freshmen won 2-0 in a game coach Chris O’Dell called “intense.” Daniel Brill volleyed in Graham Gudis’s corner kick. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, Daniel Perez-Elorza caught the keeper off his line, and nailed a 40-yard shot. O’Dell cited Ben Foster as “a man on a mission,” and Kenji Goto for excellent defensive work.