New Canaan and Darien each score early, play to 1-1 tie
DARIEN -- Although it is a result that typically leaves teams less than content -- especially against a crosstown rival -- New Canaan and Darien soccer players and coaches alike were unable to find much fault with the way either team played in their 1-1 tie Monday at Darien High School.
Still unbeaten defending State Champions coming into Monday, New Canaan required less than nine minutes to capture a 1-0 advantage. Steven Valente elevated a centering pass to Tom Carey, who blasted the ball out of the air past Darien goalie Jack Fisher for the lead with 31:35 to play in the first half.
"Steven played a great ball through, I just had an opportunity and I put it away," Carey said. "I think both teams played very strong today."
Darien wasted little time in responding to its early deficit, as Spencer McMullin won a 50/50 ball away from a pair of New Canaan defenders and got his shot past New Canaan goalie Scott Levene for the equalizer with 29:56 remaining in the half.
Ben Highton was credited with an assist on the play.
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"The ball was in the air and the defense didn't really communicate so it just bounced in front of me, and I kind of just dragged it across and toe poked it into the goal," McMullin said.
The game was chalk full of quality scoring opportunities for both squads, but each goaltender was up to the task of keeping the ball out of the net for the last 61 minutes of play.
Levene came up with nine saves for New Canaan while Fisher turned away five shots for Darien.
In the second half, Darien's best scoring chance belonged to Brennan Branca, who attempted a scissors kick, only to be denied by Levene.
Later in the half, New Canaan was awarded a free kick, which was taken by Valente from about 30 yards away from the Darien goal. Valente's shot appeared to have a chance to sail into the top of the net, and only a leaping save by Fisher prevented the goal.
Following a whistle with 20 minutes to play, New Canaan and Darien got into a brief skirmish in front of the New Canaan net, and the Rams were accessed a red card, forcing them to play a man down for the remainder of the match.
"I don't want to give my opinion on the red card; it is what it is. But those things can happen, and unfortunately it did," New Canaan coach Victor Sanchez said. "I was proud of how the boys were able to respond based on playing a man down and the way that red card developed."
Although the regular season is just past its midway point, the Rams (6-0-3) and the Blue Wave (7-1-2) each appear to be playoff bound, and both teams indicated that they would be up for the challenge of facing off against their crosstown rivals for a second time, in either the FCIAC or State tournament.
"I'd love to see them again. I think if we play the full 80 minutes, we could definitely beat this team," Carey said.
"I'd like to see them again. I know we can beat them, but we've just got to work on a couple of things," McMullin said.
New Canaan, which has tied two straight games, put its undefeated record on the line Thursday night at Wilton at 6 p.m. Darien, also winless in its last two, played host to Staples on Thursday at 4 p.m. The game results were not available at press time.
"I think overall it was a fair result. I thought both goalies made some key saves today," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "That's the level that we want to be able to compete at. You're playing a team that won state's last year and is returning eight starters, so to play them like that, I thought it was a fair result."