With most of its roster different from last season, Greenwich boys soccer coach Kurt Putnam was interested in seeing how his team would fare in its first test of the season in the form of FCIAC rival Ridgefield.
An effective defensive effort and a pair of clutch tallies helped the Cardinals pass such a test.
Greenwich started its season off on the right foot, registering a 2-0 victory over Ridgefield at Cardinal Stadium in the season-opener for both squads.
“For the most part, I’m quite happy, considering we’ve only had 10 days of practice with a team that has so many new players,” said Putnam, whose Cardinals advanced to the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals in 2018. “I saw a lot of energy and of course, it’s always nice to start the season with a win.”
Senior Farid Ghaliya and sophomore Joao Limo each tallied for the Cardinals, who took a 1-0 lead into halftime. Senior goalie Padraig Colligan made four saves for the shutout win.
Ray Dearth, a senior made six saves for the Tigers, whose defensive effort was anchored by junior Will Baker and Chad Eskenazi.
“Unfortunately, we came out too nervous and that continued throughout most of the game,” Ridgefield coach Phil Bergen said. “The last 10-15 minutes, we played well, but unless we control the game, we are not going to be able to do much this season. Hopefully, we’ll come around and learn from this experience.”
Ghaliya scored the go-ahead goal near the penalty area in the 15th minute.
“Andy hit a beautiful ball and I saw that I could hit it when it was in the air,” Ghaliya said. “I stayed composed, took a deep breath, because that’s what we’re working on, being composed on the field, and I just tapped it in. If I was too energetic I would have shot the ball right over the goal.”
The score remained 1-0 until Lima converted a penalty kick in the 52nd minute, booting his shot past Dearth to give GHS a two-goal lead. Ridgefield applied more pressure in the second half, than it managed to muster in the opening half and came close to cutting Greenwich’s lead in half. Senior Tim Vanni’s shot from 40 yards out almost found its mark, but Colligan stretched out for the save, deflecting the ball with his hands, before controlling the rebound.
“It’s great to come out with a win, it’s what we were working for,” said GHS senior Davi Pedreiro, who helped pace Greenwich’s solid play in the midfield. “Since it was the first game of the season, it was a little hectic, a little bit of a back-and-forth game. But we came out with a lot of energy and got a lot of 50/50s.”
Senior Max Pisacreta and junior Tadeo Mendive were key defensively for the Cards, who host New Canaan Monday at 5 p.m.
“Everyone was working hard, but since it’s a new team, everyone has to be more confident in who they are and go as hard as they can,” Ghaliya said. “We’ll get better as we learn each other’s movements.”
Bergin is confident in his squad moving forward.
“We have to learn from this experience,” Bergin said. “As the game went on, we won more 50/50s and that generated some confidence. History shows that every good FCIAC team will lose a few games a season.”
GREENWICH 2, RIDGEFIELD 0
RIDGEFIELD 0 0 — 0
GREENWICH 1 1 — 2
Records: Greenwich 1-0; Ridgefield 0-1. Goals: G — Farid Ghaliya, Joao Lima; Goalies: R — Ray Dearth (6 saves); G — Padraig Colligan (4 saves).