FCIAC boys soccer preview: League talented from top to bottom
Few FCIAC sports couple quality and parity as well as boys soccer.
It was just a year ago that a No. 8 seed (New Canaan), defeated the top seed (Norwalk) in the opening round of the league tournament, and not too many eyebrows were raised.
Or that 13 of the 19 schools in a dog-eat-dog conference qualified for the state tournament.
Staples did win its third straight and 27th FCIAC title, so there are times you stick with the chalk.
As a new season beckons, little has changed in the landscape. It would not be a complete shock if the same eight teams return to the playoffs, if Norwalk is again the regular-season champion, or if a No. 8 seed wins a first-round game.
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The Wreckers and Greenwich have lost a lot of players, but should join Trumbull and New Canaan, which returns 10 starters, as the favorites in another compelling horse race that results in a photo-finish.
Five teams to watch:
1. Staples: The three-time defending league champion lost eight starters, but consider the Wrecker program the Apple of state soccer.
2. Norwalk: The Bears won the regular-season title a year ago before stumbling in the postseason. They have the personnel to again contend.
3. Trumbull: The Eagles' 9-5-4 mark a year ago was a step back in relation to their recent history. They seem primed to take a step forward this fall.
4. New Canaan: The Rams have all but one starter back from the team that stunned Norwalk in the opening-round of the FCIAC Tournament and then went on to win the CIAC Class L Tournament in their second straight trip to the final.
5. Greenwich: Eighteen seniors graduated, but the Cardinals are accustomed to reloading, not rebuilding.
Five players to watch:
1. Scott Levene, New Canaan: The junior goalkeeper had eight shutouts last year and possesses preternatural instincts.
2. Nick Zuniga, Norwalk: The Bears' forward is a four-year starter and explosive finisher.
3. Keith Bond, Trumbull: The Eagles' forward is the player they turn to for a big goal.
4. Mateo Gallego, Westhill: The Vikings' forward is capable of dazzling plays up front.
Five games to watch:
1. Greenwich-Ridgefield, Sept. 16: A compelling contest to start the year.
2. Trumbull-Norwalk, Sept. 22: A good early-season test between two preseason favorites.
3. Staples-Norwalk, Sept. 30; Staples-Trumbull, Oct. 6; Staples-Greenwich, Oct. 10: The Wreckers have by far the most difficult stretch of any team this season.
4. Staples-Fairfield Warde, Oct. 15: Any rematch of an FCIAC title game gets highlighted on the calendar.
5. Norwalk-New Canaan, Oct. 24: Will the second to last game of the regular season, a rematch of last year's FCIAC Tournament opener, also be a preview of this season's final?
Top players by team:
Norwalk: F Nick Zuniga, F Chris Puente, MF Mike Broncati, D Erick Romero.
New Canaan: G Scott Levene, MF Jon-Luke Ferrandino, MF Tim Pritchard, F Steven Velente.
Westhill: F Mateo Gallego, MF David Quizo, MF Sebastian Rozo.
Stamford: MF Eric Altamura.
Trinity Catholic: MF Kevin O'Reilly.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Christian Barral, Mahmoud Kafel.
Bridgeport Central: MF Kenn-Henry Sila.