Greenwich boys soccer blanks Westhill on Saturday, 4-0

While both Greenwich and Westhill boys soccer teams entered the fray on a hot Saturday afternoon looking to ignite their respective seasons, it was the Cardinals that stayed red hot, beating the Vikings 4-0.

The game started with the typical frenzied, high-paced approach reminiscent of the many recent years of games between the Vikings and Cardinals.

Greenwich pressured the Westhill goal often in the early exchanges, only to be thwarted by captain and central defender Ian Zacharewicz. In the midfield the big battle was between Westhill co-captain Sam Jelliffe and Paul Quiroga, a four-year varsity player and co-captain at GHS.

The early exchanges went both ways with neither player marking his stamp on the game but as the game entered the latter parts of the first half a through ball from Quiroga found found last years FCIAC final MVP junior Nick Bartels on the outside right.

Bartels let a power drive rip towards the net and from there the controversy began. It seemed as if the Westhill keeper tipped the ball onto the bar, which was then rebounded by Liam Tracey with a header and into the net. The Westhill players remonstrated that the ball had hit the football cross-bar and not the soccer cross-bar.

Despite the protests, the officials maintained that the goal was good and Greenwich went into halftime with a slender 1-0 lead.

The second half started much the same as the first, with neither team taking a stronghold on the game. Constant runs from Tracey and Bartels up front seemed to start making inroads as the Westhill team found it difficult to break out of their own half with any offensive threat and possessions.

Up front, Vikings striker Jake Atkinson was finding life tough dealing with the physical play of David Michaud and Andy Ramirez, who closed down the talented striker at every opportunity and limiting his ability to either connect with his team or create opportunities for himself.

Then in a 12-minute spell, Big Red opened up the game blowing out Westhill with three quick goals. In the 63rd minute Tracey returned the favor to Bartels, sending a breakaway pass through the heart of the Vikings defense. Bartels composed himself with his first touch and slipped the ball past the advancing keeper.

Two minutes later Bartels then became provider himself again sending in a pin-point cross to the advancing John Aguirre, who sent a thunderous header into the far corner. Sophomore Bernardo Franca came on in the second half and scored his second goal in as many games in the 75th minute, latching onto a through-ball and chipping the keeper from the edge of the box, a finish that showed maturity beyond his years.

At the end of the game, Putnam saluted his players for an immediate turn-around performance that showed much more urgency, determination and edge.

“We found character today that was sadly missing on Wednesday,” said Greenwich High head coach Kurt Putnam. “Although only Andy returned it showed that those players being given the chance did so admirably and that’s a great dilemma for me now once the others return. We need to carry this over now to Wilton and with the short break we can re-group and try to rest up a little.”

With the FCIAC such a tough league, getting the victory against Westhill was a necessity. With the victory, Greenwich improved to 5-2 on the season, while the Vikes fell to 3-4. Greenwich is still in the thick of things when it comes to leading the FCIAC. Fairfield Ludlowe, Norwalk and Danbury are tied with 19 points, while Wilton sits at 16 points. Big Red is next with 15 points.

From there, the next five teams are tied with 10 points.

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