Greenwich boys soccer falls to No. 4 seed Farmington in OT, 2-1

Greenwich High's Paul Quiroga goes for the ball during a recent game at Cardinal Stadium. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High’s Paul Quiroga goes for the ball during a recent game at Cardinal Stadium. — Avery Belicka photo

The Greenwich High School boys soccer team gave it everything they had against a physical and aggressive Farmington High School side in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL quarterfinals.

Although Big Red scored late to send the contest to overtime, it was the Indians that struck in the waning moments of the first overtime to net the eventual game-winner beat the Cardinals 2-1.

“I think we could have won it,” Greenwich High School head coach Kurt Putnam said. “We had a bunch of opportunities in overtime to win it. It came down to our lack of experience playing in these kind of games. I couldn’t be prouder of the way we played today. They actually left their best game of the season to the last game of the season. As a coach, you can’t ask for anything more than that. I thought we left everything out on the field.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys on the team,” senior Dan Ozizmir said. “The thing that I loved was the conditions tonight were bad and we played against a great team, but we really played our game and kept the ball on the ground. We moved the ball really well at times. I am just happy that the guys had the confidence in themselves to play our game.”

With Farmington up 1-0 and time running out on the Cardinals, Greenwich put the heavy pressure on the Indians. While attempting a shot near the front of the net at close range, an Indians player attempted to make the save, however his hands touched the ball.

GHS junior Nick Bartels made the decision to take the penalty kick with 2:54 to play. About a minute earlier Bartels had a golden opportunity to knot the game, as he took the ball in front of the net on the right side and went for the shot, but the ball missed the net and sailed past the left corner.

With plenty of determination and revenge on his mind, Bartels stepped up for the penalty kick ran to the ball and drilled a shot in the center of the net. The Farmington goalie was faked out, dove to his right and Greenwich was able to tie the game at 1-1.

“It definitely was a penalty kick,” Putnam said. “Their kid came out and dove like a goalie to save it. It shows his strength. He could have easily looked at me and said that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind. But he didn’t. He went for it. The character for a kid, knowing that a few minutes earlier he lost the opportunity to take his team into overtime to still want to take that penalty kick, is just off the charts. He’s going to be a great leader next year.”

“The mental toughness on the team every single time is amazing here,” Ozizmir said. “It seems like the past four or five games we have been down a goal and every time we don’t quit. All we needed to do was keep the ball in their zone and keep attacking and something will go our way.”

“I love how we bounce back,” senior Chris Galeano said. “We’ve been doing that all season. It’s one of the great attributes this team had.”

Greenwich had a plethora of chances to find the back of the net in the first overtime, as Alejandro MacLean, Bartels and David Michaud all had looks at the net. But with 38.6 seconds to play in the first overtime, it was Farmington that scored the game-winner.

Off a Greenwich High yellow card, junior Jared Edelson took the free kick from 25 yards out on the right side of the net. He arched his shot towards the left corner and senior Derek Fern was there to redirect the ball in the back of the net for the 2-1 lead.

“I feel like we had our chances, but we didn’t take our opportunities,” senior Chris Galeano said. “They had their chances and were able to capitalize on one more than we did. But that’s soccer. Anything can happen in any given moment.”

Against the Indians, Greenwich also saw themselves in a hole early, as Farmington blasted a shot at close range. However Michaud was there to make the sliding deflection to keep the game scoreless.

Only three minutes apart, Greenwich had two solid chances at net. With 19:45 to play in the first, Bartels beat the FHS defense and blasted a shot while sliding to the ground. Unfortunately the Farmington goalie made the leaping catch. With 16:10 to play, Michaud had a shot at new from 10 yards out, but the Farmington goalie was able to kick the ball aside.

Greenwich’s best chance of the half came with 12:30 to play, as Galeano received a gorgeous pass from senior Jonathan Aguirre but Galeano wasn’t able to connect with the shot.

“I am very proud of this team,” Galeano said. “At the beginning of the season I didn’t expect to get to the FCIAC finals and to get this far at States. I’m proud of the boys. We had a lot of underclassmen that were inexperienced and didn’t play varsity last season, but they all stepped up this year and played really well. It was lot of fun playing on the team this year. I enjoyed all the boys here.”

Although Greenwich High saw its season come to an end at the Tunxis Mead Athletic Field, the Cardinals were able to stand toe-to-toe with the No. 4 seeded Indians.

“I am really proud of today’s game and I thought we works really hard out there,” MacLean said. “We missed some chances that could have won us the game, but it’s all good. We played so hard and didn’t give up. We expected this tough battle and knew it was going to be tough. We went all out and did our best, but came up short.”

Although the Indians had the better of play to start the second half, Greenwich came storming back. With 27:45 to play, Bartels went for the cross to Galeano, who fired a shot at the net, but missed by mere inches.

With 26:45 left, Aguirre was awarded the free hit. He blasted the ball to the corner of the net and Bartels gained control. He tried to fire off a shot, but the heavy pressure from the Farmington defense killed off the threat.

With the loss, Greenwich finished the season an impressive 16-4-2 overall.

“Coming into the season, no one really talked about us or expected anything from us,” MacLean said. “In the end we went to the FCIAC finals and played against a great team here tonight. We got an unlucky result tonight, but I thought this team exceeded its expectations. It was a pleasure playing with the seniors here. They are all great role models and set a great example for the future and for the underclassmen. We tried to win it today for the seniors, but we came up just a little short.”

What made the season so special for Putnam and the rest of the Cardinals was that the expectations weren’t too high at the beginning of the season. Last year Big Red lost 22 seniors and all but three starters to graduation. In addition, Greenwich really didn’t play too much with its starting roster this season, as MacLean, Zach Friedman, Galeano, Paul Quiroga and goalie Jose Romero were all sidelined as some point with injury.

“It shows the strength and character that we have,” Putnam said. “However, it does show how bright next year is looking. It will be hard to replace Dan, Chris, John (Aguirre), David (Michaud) and Paul. Those seniors played to the best of their capability. Knowing I have six guys returning that has varsity experience is great.”

“I really couldn’t be more thrilled,” Ozizmir said. “To be able to represent a program like Greenwich and continue the winning tradition is an amazing feeling. The thought of never having an off year is great. This team just keeps going. For me to leave off the program as great of a state as I left it couldn’t make me any happier. It’s great that, going forward, there are a lot of guys that will have some key varsity experience that I was able to help them with. I want our sophomores in two years to win a title.”

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