TRUMBULL — After five days of head-to-head competition, there isn’t much, if anything, separating the top three girls soccer teams in the FCIAC.
On Monday afternoon, St. Joseph and Staples played to a 1-1 tie. Three days earlier, St. Joseph traveled to Ridgefield and had the same exact result. Last Wednesday, Ridgefield and Staples played to a scoreless tie in Westport.
“It’s definitely very, very close. Each team has a shot at winning everything,” Staples central defender Mia Gonzalez said. “We all have different styles of play. Everybody’s fast, everybody’s strong, everybody’s fit. It will definitely be a race and it will be hard.”
St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira noted that the top five league teams, including New Canaan (which tied Ridgefield) and Wilton (which tied St. Joseph in the season opener) are right there in the conversation.
“I think the two best teams were on the field today, with the weapons (Staples) has and we have,” Nogueira said. “No disrespect to Ridgefield because he (coach Iain Golding) does a tremendous job with what he has, but I think we have a little bit more.”
Whether or not Nogueira is correct about the top two FCIAC teams being on display Monday afternoon, there is a better than average chance the top three will see one another again during the postseason — FCIACs or the Class LL state tournament or both.
“I don’t think much separates the top three obviously, very fine margins,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “These fine margins could be the willingness to have the fight.”
The Cadets (10-0-3) pressed the action, especially in the second half and had the better quality chances. But it was the Wreckers (11-0-2) who scored first.
Kathryn Ialeggio took a through ball from Lys Goldman, came down the right side and fired to the bottom left corner past St. Joseph goalkeeper Grace Hickey in the 21st minute.
“I thought it was a bad, bad call in the first half. No question it was offsides,” Nogueira said.
But Ialeggio pulled her hamstring on the play, according to Beattie, who said she could be in jeopardy for the FCIAC tournament, which begins late next week.
Less than 6 minutes into the second half, the Cadets got the equalizer on a Maddie Fried penalty kick, the result of a takedown in the box by Gonzalez.
“I thought I could step in and get it (the ball) and I ended up fully (knocking) her over. That was a bad play by me,” Gonzalez said.
When Staples goalkeeper Marisa Shorrock moved to her right, Fried instead went in the other direction on the penalty kick.
“The keeper leaned toward the side I always go to,” Fried said. “I think that we played really, really hard today. A tie isn’t a win and of course, we want to win, but I’m proud of us today with our work rate. We are going to eventually start finishing our chances. We have to keep playing hard and getting those chances.”
Fried and Andriana Cabral had a couple of quality scoring chances in succession after the PK. St. Joseph ended up with seven shots in the second half.
“Today I thought we were the better team. I thought we created more opportunities than they did,” Nogueira said.
While Beattie agreed with the call for the PK, he was unhappy with some of the other calls. That eventually led to him being issued a yellow card with 67 seconds left. He earned a red card — which happens when being issued two yellow cards in a game — 11 seconds after that.
Beattie will have to miss Wednesday’s home game against Westhill per CIAC rules.
“Regardless of what I said, (the referee) gave me the first yellow card for asking for consistency,” Beattie said. “If a man can’t say to another man, ‘We have to be consistent’ and that warrants a yellow card, and there’s tackles flying all over the field, kids getting hit late by challenges, all that, then I don’t really understand how the game is going that way. Did I deserve the second yellow card? Absolutely. I will not take that away from him by me saying, ‘We were cheated in that occasion.’”
“I owe my team an apology. I should have set a better example. I overstepped.”
Staples coach Barry Beattie about being issued a red card.