Greenwich boys soccer outlast New Milford 3-1 in CIAC second round

Greenwich High School head coach Kurt Putnam talks to his starters during a break in the action of Wednesday afternoon's game against New Milford High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School head coach Kurt Putnam talks to his starters during a break in the action of Wednesday afternoon’s game against New Milford High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

It wasn’t the prettiest game for head coach Kurt Putnam and the rest of the Greenwich High School boys soccer team. However, 40 minutes of stellar soccer was just enough to take the 3-1 victory over New Milford High School earlier today at New Milford High School.

“We played the game for 40 minutes and they had the game for 40 minutes,” Putnam said. “It was a pretty even game. We took our chances and they didn’t take theirs. The woodwork saved us several times and our defense stood up a little bit bigger and stronger when needed to. It’s fine margins of winning and losing at this stage and today was a fine margin game.”

Greenwich was paced by Nick Bartels, as the junior scored two of the three goals. Big Red’s other goal came from the foot of senior Chris Galeano midway through the first half.

“It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day the scoreboard was in our favor,” GHS senior Paul Quiroga said. “That’s all we care about. I am really proud of every one. I believed this team is where they are supposed to be. I really think we are one of the top eight best teams in the state and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Although Big Red scored the victory, it didn’t come easy. Less than six minutes into the game, the Green Wave grabbed the 1-0 lead. Off a turnover deep in the GHS zone, junior Nick Drew gained control of the ball and connected on the shot that hit the top right corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.

Almost two minutes later, Bartels was on the attack and charged towards the net and met up with the NMHS goalie. The rebound from the loose ball landed on the foot of Greenwich senior David Michaud, but he was unable to get a clear shot off at the open net.

However with 27:10 to play in the first half, Big Red scored the equalizer. Bartels got the ball past the New Milford defense, beat his defender and tapped the ball to the right corner of the net for the 1-1 tie.

“Nick came up with two but I thought he didn’t have a greatest game,” Putnam said. “He’s struggling to control the ball and he’s flicking the ball instead of tracking it. I thought that (New Milford) did a pretty good job teaming him. He deliberately tried to put him on a certain defender because we felt that, out of the two central defenders, he was probably the least mobile compared to (Matt Martinez). He’s a good player. Nick was able to pinch his defender and scored twice off his shoulder.”

Keeping the pressure on the Green Wave, Greenwich struck again with 18:29 to play in the half. After being taken down, Quiroga was awarded the restart.

Instead of firing the ball at the net, he found Galeano wide open to his left. Galeano gained control of the ball from 25 yards out and rifled a shot and breezed by everybody and landed in the top shelf of for the 2-1 advantage.

“We wanted to go out and finish teams off right away and that’s our strong point,” Quiroga said. “We wanted to scored two or three early goals. I thought we did that today, but really had to hold on. We got a little lucky today. They hit a couple of posts and had the ball miss the net by inches.”

While Greenwich had the lead, they were mere seconds away from losing its advantage. With 11:26 left in the first half and the GHS goalie out of position due to making the initial save, the Green Wave had a golden opportunity at the equalizer. However Greenwich seniors Michaud and Dan Ozimir stood in front of the goal and kept the ball out of harm’s way.

Again, New Milford was on the attack with 10:19 left in the half and the Green Wave fired the ball at net. Thankfully for the Cards, Ozimir was there and got a foot on the ball for the reflection at the last possible second.

“I have to say that our defense came up pretty big today,” Putnam said. “We struggled in the first 25 minutes with the runs of (Blaine McMahon). It was causing us some problems. I thought we did a really good job of handling him because they ended up bringing him back to the center. Since he was less effective up top, their coaches tried to find him somewhere else to try and make an impact in the game. We dealt with one of their biggest threats and we came up big keeping the ball out of the net on several occasions.”

With 15:05 remaining in the game and the score still 2-1, New Milford had several shots at the net from point-blank range, but Michaud, Ozimir and senior Liam Tracey once again came up huge and denied the goal.

Bartels iced the game with 5:23 to play, as he got past his defender and headed the ball in the back of the net for the 3-1 advantage.

One of the hardest challenges for Greenwich to overcome was the playing surface. For nearly all of Big Red’s games this season, they played on FieldTurf or a different kind of artificial surface. Against the Green Wave, the Cards had to adjust to playing on a natural grass surface.

“When you play on the field that we play on, it’s hard to have a bad touch and no excuse for a bad touch,” Putnam said. “To come here and try and play the same way is impossible. You can’t do it. They are used to this field. They played a good game and I don’t think (Anthony Howard) will be too disappointed with how they played.”

With the victory, Greenwich High advanced tot he CIAC class LL quarterfinal round and Putnam couldn’t be more pleased.

“I have three returning players back from last year,” Putnam said. “To be in an FCIAC final and in the quarterfinals of a state tournament is great. I wouldn’t have expected this at the beginning of the season. Of course I’m over the moon. I think for the most part, every player that goes out there on the field is playing to their upmost ability.”

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