Greenwich up­sets top-seeded Xavier

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - SPORTS - By Paul Augeri

MID­DLE­TOWN — The post­sea­son is not a time for a team to lose its sense of ur­gency. Yet it hap­pened with Xavier on Thurs­day and spelled the end to the Fal­cons’ 17-win soc­cer sea­son.

Af­ter a score­less reg­u­la­tion, Greenwich broke through on Christo­pher Cruz’s goal in the 82nd minute to beat the topseeded Fal­cons 1-0 in over­time in the CIAC Class LL tour­na­ment’s sec­ond round at Larry McHugh Field.

“I don’t think the ur­gency set in un­til we went down,” Xavier coach Brian Fitzger­ald said. “There were glim­mers.”

There weren’t nearly enough. Xavier (17-2-1) went 15-0-1 in the reg­u­lar sea­son, the best record of any SCC team, only to lose in the fi­nal seven sec­onds of the con­fer­ence tour­na­ment fi­nal.

Greenwich coach Kurt Put­nam has been in Fitzger­ald’s shoes — a No. 1 seed, un­der pres­sure to prove its tour­na­ment stand­ing, fac­ing a bat­tlethe tested op­po­nent thought to be much bet­ter than its record.

“I’ve gotta be hon­est, it’s a tough way for a team to lose,” Put­nam said. “And I’ve been there as a 16-0 team go­ing out in the first round. I know what it’s like. A tough pill to swal­low for sure.”

The 16-seed Car­di­nals (11-3-4) were play­ing their sec­ond match in 24 hours fol­low­ing a 2-0 first-round win over Shel­ton. Now, they get a shot at the No. 8 seed, de­fend­ing Class LL cham­pion Glas­ton­bury, in quar­ter­fi­nals on the road.

“The one thing to be hon­est, we only get rel­a­tively few straight­for­ward games in the FCIAC. Ev­ery­thing else is a bat­tle and a grind,” Put­nam said. “On other days this might have gone the other way (for Xavier). There’s re­ally not much to sep­a­rate the two teams.”

Greenwich was work­ing the ball on the right side of its half in the open­ing min­utes of over­time when Daniel Bour­geois crossed a pass to the mid­dle. Team­mate David Pe­dreiro feigned as if he was go­ing to play it, but let it go through to Cruz. Cruz, who was un­marked near the 18, blasted the ball out of Xavier keeper Chris­tian Wade’s reach, just in­side the left post.

“There was a lit­tle bit of bril­liance there be­cause (Pe­dreiro) dummed it, and it was a first-time fin­ish,” Put­nam said. “The shot prob­a­bly goes in maybe one out of five times. The other four times it’s over the bar, it’s wide or the keeper saves it, or some­times the kid doesn’t even thing about dum­my­ing it.

“Some­times it’s those lit­tle dif­fer­ences that sep­a­rate teams to win it.”

Greenwich out­shot Xavier and con­trolled play in the mid­field for the most part. Had Xavier con­verted an ex­cel­lent scor­ing chance in the wan­ing sec­onds of the first half, maybe the mo­men­tum of a lead would have car­ried it through the sec­ond half.

In­stead, a hard-charg­ing Fabian Mo­rales came in from the right side and crossed a close-range shot in front of goal­keeper James John­son, who left his feet and stretched par­al­lel to the ground to de­flect it.

“Their goalie made an un­be­liev­able stop,” Fitzger­ald said.

Like Xavier’s chance, Greenwich could have end-

ed it as the fi­nal sec­onds of reg­u­la­tion wound down. A throw-in to the edge of the penalty box found the foot

of a Car­di­nals player, but Wade knocked it away with 3 sec­onds left.

“A world-class save by their keeper,” Put­nam said.

This sea­son was a ma­jor turn­around for Fitzger­ald’s Fal­cons, whose last four

sea­sons re­sulted in five, four, six and five wins. The se­nior ta­lent on this year’s team will give way to a num­ber of var­sity-tested un­der­class­men.

“I thank the se­niors for ev­ery­thing they’ve given us

for four years,” Fitzger­ald said. “As far as the younger guys, they have to re­mem­ber what it took to get here and think about what they’re go­ing to do to put in the ex­tra work to get us back here.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.