DARIEN — Charlie Sears had tried several times to feed the ball to Will Henry Harmon in the box only to come up empty during Darien’s boys soccer game against Stamford.
When the two senior co-captains finally connected, it opened the floodgates for the Blue Wave.
Harmon scored on a header off a long free kick from Sears in the 54th minute, and Darien went on to shut out Stamford, 3-0, Monday at Darien High School.
For Sears, who finished with two assists, snapping the scoreless tie after being turned back several times allowed the Wave to exhale.
“That was such a relief,” Sears said. “Harmon and I have really worked on the set pieces and it must be like six or seven times he’s gotten on the end of my cross. It just feels so good to finally score there and to get a win at home.”
“He’s assisted three or four of those headers to me this season, so we definitely have a good connection,” Harmon said. “I was just looking to shake my defender, make a good run, beat him to the ball and get a head on it and I did that on that play.”
The game was a key one for both teams, which are still struggling to gain their footing.
For Darien (2-5-2), the victory snapped a three-game losing streak and gave its playoff chances a boost, while Stamford (3-5-1) missed an opportunity to get back to the .500 mark and had its own two-game winning streak broken.
“They came out a lot stronger than us, they were quicker to the ball, and they were quicker to the space,” Stamford coach Mario Caminiti said. “We couldn’t compete with them physically for the high balls. At this level, athleticism takes over, and you’ve got to have the personality to challenge that and I don’t think we did.”
Darien displayed plenty of energy, especially during the second half. The Wave controlled the action for big chunks of time, beat the Knights to the vast majority of 50-50 balls, and generated numerous opportunities.
They also managed to control Stamford star Kenley Lalanne, who had limited chances.
“He’s a fantastic player and we just thought if we could prevent him from getting the ball, we would take a lot away from them,” Sears said.
“Kenley has been targeted all season long because everybody knows him from last season,” Caminiti said. “He’s working very hard and we’re trying to get him open, and in practice, we’re trying combinations and penetration drills. He’s surrounded and my midfielders sometimes and not aware that he’s surrounded so we have to get them to look to other players to take that run and create a shot. It’s not a one-man team and they have to learn to play together.”
Jack Holly scored the final two goals for Darien, first finishing a pass through the middle from Sears in the 61st minute, and then scoring with an assist from Cristian Ochman with 8:30 remaining.
Defensively, the Wave featured strong play from Harmon, Jacob Grimm, Colin Gallagher and Ethan Fox, with keeper Will LeHan coming up with a few key saves.
“We have a good understanding and good communication between the center-backs and the goalkeeper,” Harmon said. “That was important for us to get the clean sheet and we’re certainly capable of doing that in more games.”
The brightest spot for Stamford was the play of its junior goalie Adrian Torres, who started the season with the junior varsity team.
“We lost both of our goalkeepers to concussions, so we brought him up and he’s been fantastic for us,” Caminiti said. “He’s a solid guy and he made some critical saves. They could’ve had a lot more, but he played fantastic.”
Torres’ play was complemented by the backline play of Lev Shapiro, Josh Goncalves, Luke Goncalves and Zachary Tusa, who kept the Wave off the scoreboard for the first 53 minutes.
The Blue Wave are hoping the victory will be a turning point to their season.
“We had a tough start to the schedule,” Sears said. “I think this win is going to be huge and help us kick start a run to the states, and if we can win out, hopefully FCIACs too. We feel like we can take out some big teams.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Charlie Sears, Darien. Sears picked up two assists and generated numerous other opportunities for the Blue Wave. His play in the midfield was one of the keys to Darien’s domination in possession time.
“After that first goal came, we played with so much more confidence. We were able to possess the ball more, keep the ball in their half, and get more opportunities, so that was great. This game is definitely a confidence-booster.” — Will Henry Harmon, Darien