GREENWICH — Besides making some on-field adjustments, the Greenwich High School boys soccer team entered Thursday’s FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals against Staples knowing what had to change most from when it last faced Wreckers.
“We knew the team’s mentality was going to be a huge part of this game,” Cardinals coach Kurt Putnam said following the showdown. “Who stamps authority the first 15, 20 minutes would dictate the flow of this game and who owns it.”
Greenwich, which suffered a one-goal road loss to Staples on Sept. 25, defeated their rival with the stakes higher on Thursday, by setting the tone early.
Scoring twice during the first 15 minutes of play, second-seeded Greenwich recorded an impressive 2-0 win over seventh-seeded Staples at Cardinal Stadium in the quarterfinal-round of the FCIAC Tournament. The Cardinals (12-4-1) advanced to Monday’s semifinals, where they will face sixth-seeded Norwalk at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. Greenwich posted a 4-0 triumph against Norwalk on Oct. 3.
Senior forwards Adam Juszcyk and Fermine Mendive each tallied for the Cardinals, who brought a 2-0 lead into halftime. Jimmy Johnson, a senior goalie/captain, made five saves for the shutout.
“What did it for us was our intensity right out of the gate,” Johnson said. “That’s what won us this game. We were excited to come out and show Staples what we can do. Staples is obviously a good team that beat us during the season. Our attitude is what completely did it for us. We were more excited and ready than we were a few weeks ago when we played them.”
The Wreckers (8-4-4) who went into the matchup 2-0-2 in their last four games, received 10 saves from junior goalkeeper Ry Cohen.
“Usually Staples-Greenwich games are classic affairs, but this one wasn’t,” said Wreckers coach Dan Woog, whose squad will next play in the state tournament. “They beat us all over the field, no question about it. Greenwich created chances and had us on our heels the first 15, 20 minutes. We chased the game, which was not the game we wanted to play.”
STRONG START FOR CARDINALS
Juszcyk scored the only goal Greenwich needed off a counter-attack in the seventh minute. Controlling a pass from senior Federico Irigoyen, The speedy beat a defender before knocking a shot past Cohen, who came out high, giving GHS a 1-0 advantage.
With 24:15 remaining in the opening half, Mendive struck, putting the Cards ahead, 2-0. Gathering a header from a teammate, Mendive dribbled past a defender, carried the ball 20 yards and converted a right-footed shot.
“It’s good to get that first win, but we have to get two more,” Mendive said. “We wanted to win this game so bad, because they beat us during the regular season. It was one of our worst games.”
At the 17:15 mark of the first half, Staples senior Will Birch’s free kick found the feet of junior Nick DiMasi, whose shot went just over the cross bar. The Wreckers threatened shortly after, but Cardinals sophomore Thomas Lewis cleared the ball out of the box, keeping his team two goals in front.
In the second half, Mendive sent a cross into the box, but DiMasi cleared it out just in front of Cohen to keep it a two-goal game.
“We could have got some more goals,” Putnam said. “Staples brought out the best out of us, which is what rivals do. We made it difficult for them to generate shots.”
Said Woog: “They beat us to balls, they beat us to headers and they played with more passion than we did. We need to figure out what we did well and what we need to improve on. This is a great group of kids and we love what they’ve given us. We have been in this position before and we’ve figured things out more than we haven’t.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Juszcyk ignited the Cards with the early goal and was a presence up front throughout.
“We just came out here, executed and tried to win every battle, every ball in the air,” Mendive said. “You want to come back and beat a team that beat you.”
GREENWICH 2, STAPLES 0
STAPLES 0 0 — 0
GREENWICH 2 0 — 2
Records: Greenwich 12-4-1; Staples: 8-5-4
Goals: G — Adam Juszcyk, Fermine Mendive; Assists: G — Federico Irigoyen; Goalies: S — Ry Cohen (10 saves); G — Jimmy Johnson (5 saves).