DANBURY — Soccer is embedded deep inside the DNA of Danbury’s Tyler Warren.
His parents, Franz and Jennifer, were both Division-I soccer players at Rutgers University and his brothers Jordan, Justin and Conner were all-state at Danbury before him.
“Soccer is definitely just in me,” said Warren, who is committed to play soccer at Northwestern University. “I grew up going to Danbury games and watching my brothers. I always loved watching Danbury High play. Whenever we could find the time to play, I loved playing with my brothers. I feel like that’s why I play the way I do. I play tough because I’ve always played with my brothers and they taught me how to play. I was four years younger than them and they didn’t take it easy on me. They always played me like I was their age. They were my biggest test. It made me a much more physical player.”
That physicality is part of what makes the Danbury senior one of the best defensive players in the state, but it is far from the only part.
Warren plays left fullback, using his strength, speed and awareness of the game to lock down the oppositions’ striker.
In addition, the Hatters’ offense often begins with Warren moving balls up the flank and occasionally making offensive runs himself.
Though he’s capable of moving up, his mind his always on protecting the goal.
“When they are young, players gravitate to areas. You see the kid who hangs back and the kid who wants to always be forward. Tyler has always taken a lot of pride in doing the ugly stuff, the defending work. He is a natural defender and has been since an early age,” Danbury coach Antony Howard said. “When you’re that strong you will stand out wherever you play. Last year, there were a lot of good strikers in the league and they all got recognition. When you see a player shut it all down, you realize, he must be pretty good, as well.”
Howard has been coaching Warren since he was a youth player in club soccer in Danbury.
“Athletically he’s a very strong kid and very quick,” Howard said “What separates him is he has the ability to make simple decisions. He has skill but he doesn’t necessarily need to use it because he makes good, simple decisions. Defensively, there is not a whole lot that gets past him.”
Warren, who is currently nursing a sprained ankle and not in the lineup, is one of 15 seniors on the Danbury team.
He and the two other captains, centerbacks Aiden Coleman and Joe Mooney have played soccer together since kindergarten.
“He used to be a much different player. He used to be a normal, conservative left back and wouldn’t go on runs as much as he does today. As he got bigger and stronger, he realized kids couldn’t really keep up with him. Now, he takes the ball up whenever he wants to and he’ll create chances,” Coleman said. “The weakness of a lot of defenses is that the kids can’t handle the ball in the back. When I have him to my left, I always know I can pass it to him and he’ll be able to find me. It’s always a safe feeling playing with him back there.”
Danbury is 7-2-0 with three shutouts and five games with just one goal conceded.
“We take a lot of pride in keeping a clean sheet. Playing together for so long is so important to us. We communicate really well together and often we don’t even have to say anything. We can give physical cues and the other guys will know. It helps a lot to have that chemistry,” Mooney said. “Tyler is not only a good defender, but when we have the ball and an opponent is pressuring us, we can play the ball to him and he can work the ball out. If there is a lot of pressure, we rely on him to be calm and work that ball out.”
Warren’s brothers all played soccer, hockey and lacrosse at Danbury and Tyler was following the multi-sport path until the end of sophomore year when he decided to dedicate himself full-time to soccer.
That move has paid off for him, though he still channels his past sporting life on the pitch.
“The thing that carries over from hockey to soccer is the physicality,” Warren said. “I guess the vision helps too. Hockey is a smaller area than soccer but I had to pick out passes and see the whole rink in front of me, just like I need to see the whole field ahead of me in soccer.”
It should come as no surprise he was defensively minded on the ice, as well.
So, while headlines more often come with scoring goals, that is not Warren’s style.
“I love playing defense,” he said. “When I was younger, I played left mid, but my coaches were always mad because I was going so far back to defend because I hated giving up goals. Finally, they just decided to put me at left back.”
Though personal awards have rolled in, the thing Warren wants before he graduates is a championship.
Danbury has not won a title since 1998 when it took home both the FCIAC and Class LL crowns.
Warren has been on teams which have come close.
As a freshmen starter he was part of the team which won its Class LL semifinal game only to have to forfeit the game the next day for use of an ineligible player.
In his sophomore season Danbury lost in the state quarterfinals.
Junior year also ended in painful fashion, with the Hatters losing to Trumbull 1-0 in overtime of the FCIAC final and falling on penalty kicks to East Hartford in the state quarterfinals.
“I think the experience of playing for a FCIAC championship helps. Hopefully we can get another shot at it this year and we will be better prepared,” Warren said. “This year, hopefully we can make a deep run in the state tournament. We need a championship.”