GREENWICH — Seven games into its season, the Greenwich boys soccer team has passed each test it has faced, but Friday’s game against Stamford seemed more like a late-semester exam.
The Cardinals who hadn’t experienced much adversity through their first six matchups, found themselves embroiled in a tense tie against a spirited Stamford squad.
Yet Greenwich, which entered the season intent on getting the absolute most out of this modified, 2020 fall season, imposed its will late in the second half to keep its perfect record intact.
Greenwich’s many strengths surfaced throughout its well-earned 2-1 Senior Day victory against Stamford at Cardinal Stadium.
Depth, talent, confidence, poise and plenty of scoring options — the Cardinals possess each characteristic, making them tough to top.
“This was our most competitive game of the season, but we really stuck to it,” said Cardinals quad-captain Matias Lew, one of the 20 seniors honored on Senior Day. “We have a lot of players who were first coming in playing varsity for the first time and they were hungry to win. Whether we have to grind it out or not in games, we pull through.”
The Cards pulled through with the win Friday, courtesy of a goal from senior William Flynn in the 64th minute. Lew set up the go-ahead goal, lofted a pass to a charging Flynn.
“I think it was Jake that put in a really good tackle on one of their main players and the ball just bounced to me and I saw Will Flynn, our striker, make a really good run and I just put it over the top,” Lew said. “Luckily, he stuck his body out for the goal.”
Flynn’s shot just eluded the reach of Black Knights senior goalie Luke Tomas, who finished the game with 11 saves.
Stamford is 0-2-2, but it dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions, while tying its other two matchups.
“Every half we play in terms of effort is tremendous,” Stamford coach Mike Summa said. “I have a group of extremely hard-working kids. They all have a chip on their shoulder, they want to prove something. Our work ethic is second to none.”
Trailing 1-0, Stamford knotted the score when senior forward Christian Carmona directed a shot with his right foot from approximately 30 yards out that found its way past Cardinals senior goalie Harrison Kriebel with 21:50 remaining in the second half. The play marked one of the few times Greenwich hasn’t been in the lead in a game this fall. The Cards have outscored the opposition, 30-3, through seven games.
“Stamford is a good side, a good technical side,” said GHS coach Kurt Putnam, whose squad advanced to the state finals in 2019. “They moved the ball around real nice and they have some excellent players in there. He’s (Summa) got them playing well.”
Putnam was pleased with the poise his team has consistently displayed.
“Once again, we showed a lot of character and guts,” he said.
As for the many seniors on his squad?
“They are a good group of lads and they worked hard for each other,” Putnam said. “They don’t like to lose and they have a lot of fight in them. Every time we get a goal it raises our game and we push on and get another one.”
Following a scoreless first half in which the Cardinals and Black Knights had scoring opportunities, junior Jake Hugh-Jones put the home team on top. Hugh-Jones’ goal off a direct kick in the 53rd minute gave the Cardinals a 1-0 edge. A shot from senior Robert Heitkamp hit the crossbar in the opening half for Greenwich, which was also paced by senior quad-captain Jeanel Boone over the first 40 minutes.
Stamford nearly took the lead 1:40 into the second half. Senior Carlos’ Chavarria’s header off a pass from senior Joshua Goncalves just missed the mark.
“I’m very happy with the way we played,” Summa said. We haven’t won yet, but I’m not disappointed, because we are playing tremendous soccer. I know it by the style of play and the reaction of the other coaches and refs after games.”
Kriebel, who played the majority of the game in goal, stopped six shots for Greenwich, which visits rival Darien on Wednesday. They topped the Blue Wave 3-1 in the first meeting between the two teams.
Indeed, Greenwich has plenty of scoring options on the field and significant depth at each position.
“The engines we have working in the midfield is impressive,” Cardinals quad-captain Ryan Smith said. “These guys are non-stop and they have a ton of creativity.”
“Today’s game was a real challenge for sure,” Smith continued. “We were pretty fortunate that he (Lew) was able to find Flynn up front.”
As has been the case this season, the Cardinals get tougher to contend with as each minute passes.
“I thought as the game went on, we got better,” Putnam said. “I would be interested to play Stamford another time.”