Second-half surge helps Greenwich High soccer blitz Warde

After a sluggish start, the Greenwich High School boys soccer team came out of the gates flying in the second half, beating Fairfield Warde High School, 5-1 Monday afternoon at Cardinal Stadium.

“It was a good result and they are never really easy to play,” Greenwich High School head coach Kurt Putnam said. “We have four winning games so far and I set a target that we need to get eight wins and if we win the next four games, we will be in the state tournament. We are halfway there. On paper, we had two hard ones in those four games.”

Diego Gutierrez, Pieter Zenner, Will Gittings, Aidan Rafferty, and Niko Patrk each finished with one goal for Greenwich High. Zenner was also the leading man in assists, netting three. Patrk, Mateo Gowland and Kelian Dequeker each finished with one assist.

“It was just our attitude in this game,” Zenner said. “We were coming off a big win against Trumbull and took this game a little too easy. We came out here too relaxed. In the second half we came out with a better attitude and started to play hard.”

The duo of Emmet Clarke and Santiago Irigoyen split goaltending duties for Big Red, as Clarke finished with eight saves and Irigoyen added three saves.

Matt Petroccio had the lone goal for Fairfield Warde. With the victory, Greenwich upped its record to 4-1-1 on the season. The Mustangs fell to 2-4 overall.

“We are very happy right now,” Patrk said. “We are having a great season, but we need to keep it going, we need to play strong the rest of the way.”

Although Greenwich came away with the easy victory, the game started out quite differently. Greenwich took the early 1-0 lead, but the Mustangs hung tough throughout the remainder of the half, eventually tying the game at 1-1.

The key for Greenwich was netting the go-ahead goal and grabbing the momentum as time wound down in the first half. With 7:24 to play, Zenner took the corner kick and launched a perfectly placed ball in the direction of Patrk, who leaped in the air and headed the ball in the back of the net for the 2-1 lead.

“We took the lead because we practice those kinds of set pieces and as a result we got the goal in,” Patrk said. “We were more confident after that goal. We kept the momentum going in the second half and as a result scored five goals in the game.”

At the half, Putnam said, he could have given his team a plethora of speeches on what transpired in the first half; however, he knows the team wanted to hear the truth.

“I just told them that they have to get better all around,” Putnam said. “They were getting in behind us one too many times. I wouldn’t say that they had a lot of great chances. They got into dangerous positions too many times for my liking. For the second half I wanted them to tighten up their defense all around. We need to make teams work hard enough to get goals. We are giving them because we are doing poor tactical stuff and poor technical decisions.”

It seemed like a different team that came out for Greenwich in the second half, as Big Red dominated play throughout the rest of the match.

Using a stifling defense and having some crisp passes in transition, Greenwich was able to net a two-goal lead with 30:55 to play in the game, as Gowland gained possession of the ball in the Greenwich zone and passed to Zenner. Zenner then found Rafferty darting to the end and connected on the pass. Rafferty easily put the ball in the back of the net for the 3-1 advantage.

Nine minutes later, and off a free kick, Harrison Tramposch took the kick from close to midfield and found Patrk, who then passed the ball off to Zenner in front of the goal for the score.

With 7:24 to play, Greenwich finished its scoring when Gittings fired a shot at point-blank range. The ball bounced off the hands of the Fairfield Warde goalie and into the back of the net for the 5-1 lead.

“We stopped them from getting in behind us, I thought our marking was a lot more organized and there was a lot more tenacity and aggression in there,” Putnam said. “Up front we got things going and we got some good combination goals as well. When we move the ball quick, we can be a pretty dangerous team. When we hold on to the ball and then keep everything short, we get ourselves in a lot of trouble and end up losing possession.”

“We moved the ball around well and I got a lot of looks on the left side a bunch of times,” Zenner said. There was great passing all over the place today.”

That span of three goals had a very familiar tone.

Against Trumbull in the first half, Big Red exploded onto the scene by controlling all momentum from the game and netting three consecutive goals. Greenwich went on to beat the high-powered Eagles, 3-1.

“We scored like three goals in 12 minutes and the game was over,” Putnam said. “When we can turn it on, we can turn it on. It seemed like we could have scored five or six goals against Trumbull because we were hitting a perfect spell. However, they scored a goal and the rain came. We played a good first half against Trumbull and a really good second half today against Warde. I think we are getting the ratio up when it comes to playing well. That’s good because we started off pretty rough. We didn’t play well at all against Norwalk and Wilton; Bassick and Harding made us work for it.”

After the emotional victory against rivals Trumbull High School and Monday’s win against the Mustangs, the Cardinals entered a tough stretch of the season, playing an astounding seven games in 12 days. Yesterday, Big Red battled Trinity Catholic, but results were unavailable at press time. Tomorrow Greenwich hits the road and travels to Bridgeport for a game against Central at 6.

From there, Greenwich gets a break until Monday, when it travels to Westport for a key matchup against Staples High School.

Two days later, Big Red stays on the road and travels to Stamford for a game against Westhill, but returns home for a Friday afternoon game against Brien McMahon High School.

Less than 24 hours later, the Cardinals resume play when they host Ridgefield High School.

“The first two games of the season were hard, but they were against the best teams in the league,” Zenner said. “We knew that if we played well in those games, we could play well the rest of the way. This is where we want to be right now. We are playing really well. We got a bunch of really tough upcoming games and not a lot of time to play them. We have to take it easy and we’ll be playing a lot of players.”

While the Cardinals are flying high now, Putnam knows the importance of playing focused during its long stretch of games.

“We are not turning it on for a long period of time at the moment,” Putnam said. “We are either going to come up against a team where we come up unstuck and they capitalize on the fact that we are so generous or we are going to come up to a team where we put together spells like that for a long period and someone’s going to take an absolute shellacking. Equally there is a possibility it can go the opposite way as well, and that’s something we need to work on as a group.

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