Last season saw Greenwich advance to the championship game of the CIAC Class LL Boys Soccer Tournament for the first time since 1978, but this fall, it won’t have the opportunity to earn a return trip to the state finals.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, like all fall sports teams, the Cardinals are playing a modified schedule, which just includes teams in its FCIAC region. A state tournament won’t be held, yet the CIAC plans on offering some type of postseason experience in November.
“Right now, we are just grateful the FCIAC and CIAC were able to put together something for the boys to play, so we’ll take whatever opportunities we get to go out there and play,” said GHS coach Kurt Putnam, who has guided the squad since 2001. “They are doing anything they possibly can to make sure the boys can go out there and play.”
Following CIAC social distancing guidelines, Greenwich began practicing in cohorts of 10 players late last month. Monday marked the team’s first 90-minute practice with its full program together.
Competing in a season that will have a new look to it won’t change the Cardinals’ mindset Putnam said.
“We’ll play as if it were a regular FCIAC season,” said Putnam, whose Cards registered a record of 14-6-2 in 2019. “We’re not going to take any game lightly. Our team wants to go out there and win 10 games, that’s their goal.”
Putnam mentioned 10 games, because that’s how many the Cardinals are scheduled to play this season. So could a perfect-10 be in the Cards?
“For the seniors, we want to win everything we can,” said GHS senior quad-captain/midfielder Matias Lew said. “We are really excited to even have a season. Many leagues don’t even have a season, so what we are going to have is better than nothing. Let’s hope the postseason is still on, even if it’s just a few games.”
Playing in the FCIAC West region, Greenwich will play two games each against J.M. Wright Technical School, Westhill, Stamford, New Canaan and Darien.
Putnam sees similarities between his current squad and the 2019 team that advanced to the Class LL final, where it lost to fifth-seeded Hall, 3-1.
“Sadly we won’t play for a state title this year, because we have a strong group of players,” said Putnam, who has coached GHS to five FCIAC titles (2005, 2007, 2013, 2016, 2017). “They are on par with last year’s team. We have quite a few returning players. They know what we did well last year and they know what our the level of expectation and play are.”
Senior captains Jeanel Boone, Ryan Smith, Tadeo Mendive and Lew, hope to spark a squad that graduated 2019 All-FCIAC Team selections Padraig Colligan, Josh Frumin and Davi Pedreiro.
Mendive likes the chemistry and vibe he’s seen from the team during the past several weeks they’ve spent preparing for the season.
“We want to win something our senior year,” said Mendive, a center midfielder. “This summer, we’ve tried to meet up as much as possible with these regulations and since we had a few weeks to prepare, it’s looking promising — our team is building up nicely. We’re just ready to start going.”
A forward, Boone should emerge as one of the Cardinals’ scoring threats.
“Our attack is good and our midfield is looking strong,” said Boone, he’s out to score more goals than a year ago. “Not many people expected us to make it to the state finals last year, but we had a great season and I think we can have another winning season.”
Andrew Lowitt (junior), Jake Hugh-Jones (junior), Isaac Dumeny (junior), William Flynn (senior) and Julius Engleton (senior) are among some of the returning players the Cards figure to rely upon.
Indeed it’s not Thanksgiving, but this is a season of thanks for the Cardinals, who are pleased to have a season.
“We have to just be grateful for even having a season in the first place,” said Smith, a left wing/striker. “We just have to make the best of what we have for our senior year and just go out and win everything. There should be some good competition and good games with the teams we are going to play.”
Added Lew: “Our team has a lot of good players at each position, along with a lot of inexperienced players, who are excited about playing for the varsity team. I don’t see why we won’t have a lot of success.”