NORWALK — The McMahon and Greenwich boys soccer teams are two programs in completely different phases of development.
Greenwich is the big dog of the conference, winning or sharing three of the last five FCIAC championships while McMahon is undergoing a program revival under third-year head coach Rodrigo Guzman.
Saturday at Jack Casagrande Field at McMahon, the Senators nearly shocked the state, coming within five minutes of a monumental upset before Greenwich tied it with a late goal.
The 1-1 result was just fine with McMahon despite having victory so close, it could taste it.
“We are playing, most likely, the No. 1 team in the state, not just in the FCIAC,” Guzman said. “The game plan for us was to have any positive result and come out with any points and the players earned that goal. This is my third year and the result are not going to happen overnight. I think we are moving in the right direction.”
The two teams were tied 0-0 at the half but with 25:04 to play, McMahon took advantage of what would be its only decent scoring opportunity of the final 45 minutes.
Eli Pardo played a ball down the side which George Simpson crossed perfectly to Chris Ocampo who finished the play by firing the ball into the top right corner.
Greenwich controlled roughly 90% of play in the second half with McMahon playing five men in the back at times.
The Cardinals had a golden opportunity with 18:14 remaining when the referee whistled McMahon for a hand ball in the box, giving Greenwich a penalty kick.
The PK was turned away on a diving stop by McMahon keeper Norberto Santiago, who finished with 12 saves on the afternoon.
Applying relentless pressure, Greenwich finally got the equalizer with 5:04 left when Rodane McKenzie fired in a cross from the left side, right onto the head of Thomas Streiff who finished the play off with force.
Greenwich knows it has a bullseye on its back and is ready for every game this year to be a tough as the opener.
“You always want to win the season opener and on paper you’d expect us to beat them but they came in with a plan and they stuck to it,” Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam said. “This is going to be every single game because every team is going to treat us like their final. We know every team is going to come out against us and give 100%, even more so because we have the record. It’s the way everybody used to treat Staples back in 2009. It’s no different but we find ourselves in that spot, now.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
George Simpson, McMahon. Simpson came up from his defense position to make the cross on McMahon’s goal but the rest of the game he may have been more valuable heading ball after ball out of the box and playing stout defense all afternoon.
“This was massive. I thought we should have gotten three points today and a couple more minutes, if we could have held out, we could have,” Simpson said. “We would have shocked everyone and sent a big message. Coming into the game we would have taken a point, obviously but knowing we were so close to three we are a bit disappointed, but we will just go on to the next game.”
GREENWICH 1, MCMAHON 1
GREENWICH 0 1—1
MCMAHON 0 1—1
Records: G 0-0-1; M 0-0-1
Goals: G– Thomas Streiff; M– Chris Ocampo. Assists: G– Rodane McKenzie; M– George Simpson
Goalies: G—Jimmy Johnson 3 saves; M–Norberto Santiago