Of the 34 players on Greenwich’s boys soccer team’s roster last season, 29 were seniors, so experience, was indeed, an asset for the Cardinals.
That’s not the case with the 2019 version of the Cardinals.
Since 29 seniors departed from the 2018 squad, only five players return to the soccer pitch, according to coach Kurt Putnam.
“I’m going into the season cautiously optimistic,” Putnam said. “I don’t want to put pressure on the new players. We just had a team talk and like Bill Belichick (New England Patriots coach) tells his team, we told them to do your job. The reality is if you do your job, the team will take care of itself. If you do your job, the team will start to form itself.”
A fixture in the postseason for well over a decade, Greenwich was edged by host Staples, 1-0, in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals in 2018, then advanced to the quarterfinal round of the CIAC Class LL playoffs, where it suffered a tough, 1-0 loss to eventual state champion Glastonbury, on a fluky goal.
“I feel really good about this team, we have some good leaders returning from our team last year and we have good talent coming in,” Cardinals senior goalie/tri-captain Padraig Colligan said. “We have a lot of players that received JV time last year, which really prepared them for making the varsity team.”
Midfielder/tri-captain Davi Pedreiro, who produced a strong junior season, will be looked upon for leadership on both ends of the field.
“We lost a lot of seniors in starting spots, but the talent and depth of our program is pretty good,” Pedreiro said. “We know we have players who can come off the bench and make an impact. Everyone has to know how hard they have to work during the season — if everyone puts in 100 percent and supports each other, we’ll be all right.”
Max Pisacreta, a senior midfielder/tri-captain, sees a Cardinals team that’s primed to prove itself.
“Everyone on this team works hard and is motivated,” Pisacreta said. “Last year, a lot of the kids on this team were on JV. This year, almost everyone is a new player, so they will be motivated, which I think is going to be one of our strong points. Everyone is talented in their own way and they will contribute to the team in some way, or another.”
Greenwich opens its season at home against FCIAC rival Ridgefield on Sept. 13.
AT THE HELM: Putnam has walked the sideline at Greenwich since 2001. During his tenure, he has guided GHS to five FCIAC titles (2005, 2007, 2013, 2016, 2017). The Cards have also traveled deep in the Class LL Tournament a number of times under Putnam’s watch.
Assisting Putnam is Ray Marschall, who returns for his 11th season. Marschall also serves as Greenwich’s varsity boys tennis coach. Greenwich, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last fall by defeating top-seeded Xavier, 1-0, in overtime, was 11-5-4 in 2018.
WHO’S GONE?: Graduation claimed almost everyone from last season’s roster. Jimmy Johnson, an All-FCIAC First Team goalie graduated, as did Woojin Kwak (First Team All-FCIAC) and Thomas Streiff (All-FCIAC First Team selection). Ben Rifkin (All-FCIAC West selection in 2018) was also among the 29 graduates. Rifkin, Johnson, and Francisco Liguori, who will miss the season with an injury sustained during Greenwich’s rugby season, were the squad’s 2018 captains.
Kai Jennings, Shoki Araki and Sasha Burnett were also among some of the numerous graduates from the 2018 team.
“A vast number of those seniors were starters and the rest of those guys were in the program for three years,” Putnam said of the graduates. “They were a special group of players. I’d like to think we gave Glastonbury their best game of the season in the state quarterfinals.”
WHO’S BACK?: Pedreiro earned All-FCIAC West team accolades in 2018. Pisacreta will see action on defense or left/right wing, while Colligan is seeking a productive season in goal.
“I made the varsity team my sophomore year and Jimmy Johnson was a great mentor, a great player, who prepared me for this role,” Colligan said.
Senior striker Farid Ghaliya, sophomore midfielder Joao Pedro Lima (who had a standout freshman campaign) and junior forward Ryan Smith also return.
Putnam is encouraged with what he has seen during the preseason from his returning players and the first-year varsity competitors.
“If we can get the right group together, the supporting group together and the right system in place, we will make it tough on teams,” Putnam said. “With so many new players, it looks like we’ll have the opportunity to build upon what we do this year, next year.”
CAPTAIN’S COMMENTS: “We want to win some titles,” Pedreiro said. “We are looking to win both the FCIAC and state championship, which hasn’t been done in a while. If we have 11 players on the field giving 100 percent each game, there’s nothing else we can ask for.”
SHOWDOWNS: Ridgefield, home, Sept. 13; New Canaan, home, Sept. 16; Darien, away, Sept. 18; Brien McMahon, home, Sept. 26; Staples, away, Oct. 1; Norwalk, home, Oct. 3; Danbury, away, Oct. 10; Westhill, away, Oct. 12; Trumbull, home, Oct. 22.
“A lot of people are expecting us to do well and we think we’ll meet those expectations,” Colligan said.