TORRINGTON >> No. 7 seed Torrington came from behind for a 2-1 win over No. 26 Branford in a Class L first-round boys soccer state tournament game at Torrington’s Robert H. Frost Sports Complex Tuesday night.
With two minutes left in regulation, Thompson got the ball in Branford’s left corner, sending a pass to the top of the penalty box.
Torrington captain Nick DalleValle, fielding the ball on the run, kicked it in for the winning score.
“It’s the first time we showed mental toughness in the second half when we were behind,” said Torrington coach Mike Fritch.
The Hornets were clearly the better team in the first half. Naseem Thompson, Nick DalleValle and the Red Raiders flipped the game on end in the second.
Playing short, accurate passes in the first half, Branford controlled the ball with multiple great chances, starting in the game’s eighth minute.
By the time Juan Leon-Munoz struck a perfect pass to Ethan Boileau rushing toward the goal 27 minutes in, the game’s outcome seemed inevitable.
Boileau kicked his goal to the upper corner of the net – for once, out of reach of Torrington goalkeeper Luke Wassik, playing the game of his life to hold off the Hornets this long.
“I thought we could have had two or three goals in the first half,” said Branford coach Paul Hunter.
“I can never make my guys believe rankings don’t matter,” said Fritch, fighting the mental block rising between an 11-5-1 NVL team and a 6-9-1 team from the SCC.
“In the first half, we played timid,” said DallaValle.
The Hornets outshot Torrington 8-2 for the half; Hunter’s “two-or-three-goal” estimate seemed conservative.
“We made changes at halftime – mentally,” said Fritch. “For us to have a good game, we need to possess at midfield.”
“In the second half, we all moved forward,” said DalleValle.
“We kept our composure,” said Thompson, the Raiders’ leading scorer, double and triple-teamed throughout the game.
Four minutes into the second half, Thompson took a bounding ball past Branford keeper Nick Cordero for the tying goal.
Now Raiders claimed 50/50 balls at midfield; the Hornets abandoned their short passes for long kick-and-runs.
“Not by design,” said Coach Hunter. “When we play well, we use short passes; when we’re playing poorly, we play kick-and-run.”
Still, the Hornets had a few more good chances.
Thompson said, “I had to go to the ball.”
Torrington hosts No. 10 Wethersfield, 10-6-1 from the CCC, Thursday.
No. 7 Torrington 2, No. 26 Branford 1
At Torrington High School
Branford 1 0 – 1
Torrington 0 2 – 2
Goals: B – Ethan Boileau. T – Naseem Thompson; Nick DalleValle. Assists: B – Juan Leon-Munoz. T – Thompson. Shots: 11-6 Branford. Saves: B – Nick Cordero 3. T – Luke Wasik 4.
Records: Branford 6-10-1; Torrington 12-5-1.