GREENWICH — Following a challenging stretch in which it lost three of four games, the Greenwich High School boys soccer team seems to be rounding into form, as Norwalk learned all to well on Tuesday.
Outstanding play from its midfielders, coupled by a superb defensive effort, resulted in the Cardinals’ second straight victory — a decisive 4-0 win over the visiting Bears in an FCIAC matchup.
With the triumph, Greenwich raised its record to 6-3 as it just passed the midway point of its season. Junior midfielder Christopher Cruz registered one goal and one assist, while sophomore Francisco Liguori, junior Woojin Kwak and senior Martin Garcia added one goal apiece for GHS.
“Today was a game about who wins the midfield and all three of them were fantastic,” Cardinals coach Kurt Putnam said. “Francisco, Martin and Chris — you can’t ask for more than that, with your three center midfielders getting goals.”
The loss was the second straight for Norwalk, which is 5-2-1, after jumping out to a 5-0 start to its season.
“I thought they (Greenwich) played a great game and they had way more intensity than we did,” Bears coach Chris Laughton said. “They did a good job of keeping the ball. We have to find some leadership and toughness and hopefully, we’ll respond the right way from this loss.”
STRONG START FOR CARDS
Greenwich seized a 1-0 advantage early in the opening half. Cruz’s free kick traveled 40 yards through the air and Liguori rose and placed a header from 20 yards out past Norwalk senior goalie Cole Judkins inside the right post, making it 1-0.
Another header gave the Cards a 2-0 lead in the 19th minute. This time, Kwak’s header off a pass from senior Fermin Mendive found its mark.
“Poor decision making on our part,” Laughton said. “The first goal we didn’t mark up and gave up a free header. The second goal, we gave it away in our own defensive third. Good teams are going to make you pay for your mistakes and we were chasing the game from there.”
ADDING ONTO THEIR LEAD
The Cardinals put the Bears in a 3-0 hole when Cruz tallied off a cross from senior Federico Irigoyen with 38:03 remaining in the second half.
“Overall, the whole team played very well and we pressured a lot,” Cruz said. “That’s what won the game for us. This was one of the best games we played and there’s more to come.”
Garcia capped the scoring in the 71st minute. Judkins came out 35 yards from the goal to retrieve a ball and blocked an attempted shot. But the ball bounded to Garcia, who lofted a high shot from over 30 yards out for the Cardinals’ fourth goal.
“Our pressure has gotten a lot better and we’re not giving the other team very many opportunities,” Liguori said. “Our attack is great, we are going forward a lot more and we are taking chances when they’re given to us.”
Junior goalie/captain Jimmy Johnson made six saves for Greenwich. Judkins stopped eight shots for Norwalk, which was paced up front by senior Sebastian Echeverri.
“We were trying to find something that works, unfortunately, today not a whole lot worked for us,” Laughton said.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cruz kept testing the Bears’ defense with his aggressive play and finished with one goal and one assist.
“The team has come together great so far,” Liguori said. “Since the beginning of the season, we have improved in every area of the game. We were determined to go out and win this game.”
Said Putnam: “We played with great intensity and I thought we moved the ball around well and defended really well. We have hopefully, turned the corner. The team is understanding what they need to do in terms of intensity and work rate.”
GREENWICH 4, NORWALK 0
NORWALK 0 0 — 0
GREENWICH 2 2 — 4
Records: Greenwich 6-3; Norwalk 5-2-1
Goals: G — Francisco Liguori, Woojin Kwak, Christopher Cruz, Martin Garcia; Assists: G — Cruz, Fermin Mendive, Federico Irigoyen; Goalies: N — Cole Judkins (8 saves); G — Jimmy Johnson (6 saves).