Greenwich’s boys soccer team accomplished all it could during the shortened/modified 2020 season, winning the FCIAC West Region title, while registering a record of 11-1.
Unlike last season that saw the Cardinals play 10 regular season games against only five teams due to COVID-19 restrictions, Greenwich’s 2021 schedule features a full slate of games, including all of its rivals.
“I’m looking forward to playing the huge games that we missed last season that we wanted to play,” said Jake Hugh-Jones, one of Greenwich’s four senior captains. “It’s good to be back and have the opportunity to have a full season.”
Getting back to playing a 15-game schedule against various opponents means the Cardinals have their sights set on accomplishing plenty this fall.
“We have a very strong returning group, I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam, who has been at the helm since 2001. “I think that we’ve got the foundation to be a very good team. Minimizing injuries and keeping healthy is one of the important keys to having a successful season. Last year would have been nice as well, had we played a full season, because we also had a very strong team.”
Said senior Andrew Lowitt, one of the Cardinals’ captains: “We always want to win and bring something home whether its the FCIAC title, or getting to a state final like we did two years ago.”
Graduation claimed 20 seniors from last season’s successful squad, including 2020 captains Jeanel Boone, Ryan Smith, Matias Lew and Tadeo Mendive. Yet the Cardinals aren’t without experience. This year’s group also features approximately 20 seniors.
“We have a lot of depth and a good group of captains,” said Putnam, whose coaching staff includes assistant coach Ray Marschall. “Right now, we are just trying to keep working on the fundamentals. We’re getting them to think about the intent of their pass – every pass has to have an intent and purpose.”
Added Lowitt, a centerback: “I’m pretty confident about the team, We have a lot of starters coming back and players coming from academy teams, so we have a lot of depth. We have a lot of young players, so chemistry and fitness will be big things for us.”
Santiago Borrego, who like Lowitt, earned All-FCIAC West Team honors in 2020, will also be relied upon for leadership at the centerback position.
“It’s a really fun program, I’ve enjoyed playing here for four years,” said Borrego, a senior captain. “It’s fun to play through the stages. From freshman, JV and varsity last year and now being a captain. I’ve enjoyed having the added responsibilities each year. This team is a place where all of us have grown and it’s been fun to be a part of this experience.”
Strong defensive play has long been one of the Cardinals’ trademarks and they’re hoping to once again make it difficult for the opposition to generate goals.
“I think defense is what we are going to focus on,” Borrego said. “Our coach said he’d rather us win 1-zero than 2-1 and we are going to try to stand by that this year and try to shut out a lot of teams. I’m going to need a lot of help from Jake (Hugh-Jones) who plays centerback, Andrew Lowitt and the rest of the team. Defending is a team effort.”
Hugh-Jones, also one of the Cards’ senior captains, brings defensive experience.
“This year there is going to be a lot of mixing around, with a lot of new guys and there are plenty of spots open for them to prove themselves,” Hugh-Jones said. I’ll be at left centerback or centermid at times. We have to keep the defense solid, which is going to be extremely important.”
Senior Julian Colin returns as Greenwich’s goalie. Junior Nicolas Figueroa is also one of Greenwich’s goalkeepers.
“Talking to our goalie Julian and making sure he’s loud and on the same page is also going to be important to us when it comes to stopping the offenses,” Hugh-Jones said.
Alejandro Rodriguez, also a senior captain, brings versatility and experience at center forward. The Cards will look to Rodriguez, senior Isaac Dumeny, who provided a spark offensively in 2020 and sophomore Maximo Acosta to help generate goals. Sophomore Maximo Ferrario could also make an impact in his first season on the squad.
“I see a lot of growth potential and a lot of people being able to score goals on our team,” Rodriguez said.
Greenwich opens its 2021 season on Sept. 10 against Brien McMahon at Cardinal Stadium.
“Last year, the season was a bit short, so this year we’re looking to get more competitive games and play teams farther away, like Staples,” Rodriguez said. “We are looking to make the FCIAC and state finals.”
Greenwich visits Fairfield Ludlowe on Sept. 14, then travels to rival Staples on Sept. 18. Some of the teams the Cardinals will host include Norwalk (Sept. 21), Trumbull (Sept. 28), Ridgefield (Oct. 7) and Danbury (Oct. 13).
“I am looking forward to the first home game next Friday against Brien McMahon,” Borrego said. “It’s been a year since we last played and last year with all the COVID restrictions, we didn’t have the real feeling of a having full season, so we’re looking forward to getting back to that.”
Said Putnam: “We obviously want to get off to a good start. It’s going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the best system that suits the team. I may have to change it according to who we play. We’ll need our players to be adaptable.”