New Canaan boys soccer team holds off Darien to keep unbeaten record intact
NEW CANAAN -- For the 10th time this season, the New Canaan boys soccer team took the field with its unbeaten record on the line, and for the 10th time, it rose to the challenge of keeping a "zero" in the loss column, this time by hanging on for a 2-1 home win against Darien.
Down by a goal for the final 42 minutes of play, the Blue Wave began to force the issue in the second half and started spending a considerable amount of time deep on New Canaan's side of the field. Darien got several good looks for the equalizer, but was denied by New Canaan goalie Michael Powell.
"We knew what we were up against. Darien's a good team, but I've always thought -- and I especially think today -- that we're a better team," said Powell, who made six saves. "We made a lot of mistakes today. We've got to work on those, but we outplayed them in the end."
Powell also got a helping hand from his teammates, who routinely cleared Darien's scoring opportunities out of the box to help preserve the win. With 12 minutes remaining, Darien's Spencer McMullin's shot seemed destined for the back of the New Canaan net, but it was cleared by New Canaan's Robert Valente, earning him an enthusiastic slap on the back from Powell.
With 1:30 remaining, Darien goalie Jack Fisher came out of net to take his team's free kick. From the New Canaan 40-yard line, Fisher sent a promising ball in the direction of the New Canaan goal, but Brennan Branca's shot was cleared away by New Canaan's Liam O'Brien.
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Although he's seen his team lose three straight one-goal games, Darien coach Jon Bradley isn't discouraged by the Blue Wave's recent play, particularly after a strong second half against New Canaan.
"It's three one-goal games against three of the top four teams in the league," Bradley said. "Are we playing bad? No. We've played quite well the last three games."
After 26 scoreless minutes to open the contest, New Canaan broke when Justin Pertierra sent a long ball to the Darien net. Pertierra's pass found Steven Valente, and although Fisher was able to clear it from Steven Valente, the ball found its way back to Pertierra, who sent his shot into the vacated Darien net before Fisher could get back in position.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Rams doubled their lead when Robert Valente had a free kick about 40 yards from the Darien net. Robert Valente's ball was on the mark, and the Rams led 2-0 after Juan Ricardo Deambrosio scored on a close-range header.
"In the first half, I thought we had the better of the play. In the second half, Darien, as expected, came out being a little more aggressive," New Canaan coach Victor Sanchez said. "(Darien) was sending a lot of long balls in the second half, and my guess is they were hoping we would make a mistake defensively. We were under a lot of pressure, but we were able to hold them off."
Staring at a potential two-goal halftime deficit, Darien earned a corner kick with three minutes remaining in the first half. The ensuing scramble resulted in New Canaan being whistled for a handball, and the ball was spotted just outside the box for Branca. Facing a wall of six New Canaan defenders, Branca sent a low shot into the bottom left corner just out of reach of a diving Powell to cut New Canaan's lead to 2-1 with 2:29 left in the first half.
"We gave a couple poor goals away, and then I thought we were the better team in the second half," Bradley said. "Unfortunately, the result didn't go our way. It's a tough loss; I don't think the boys deserved to lose this game. If we see them again, that's fine by me."
"We've got to watch out because the second half of our schedule is pretty tough; we're playing some pretty good teams," Pertierra said. "I think that we definitely have confidence, and we're coming into these matches knowing that if we work hard we'll get some good results."
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New Canaan 2, Darien 1
DARIEN 1 0 --1
NEW CANAAN 2 0 --2
Records: New Canaan 8-0-2; Darien 5-5.
Goals: NC -- Justin Pertierra, Juan Ricardo Deambrosio; D -- Brennan Branca. Assists: NC -- Robert Valente. Goalies: NC -- Michael Powell (6 saves); D -- Jack Fisher (7). Shots: NC -- 11; D -- 10.