Following an appearance in the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament last week, the Greenwich boys soccer team was intent on making a strong run toward winning the CIAC Class LL title.
Yet Cheshire dashed the Cardinals’ hopes.
Seeded 13th, Cheshire received two goals from Marcella Pannone to register a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Greenwich in the second round of the Class LL Tournament on Thursday at Cardinal Stadium.
The Rams will visit Norwalk in the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday at 5 p.m. The Cardinals, who lost to Norwalk in last week’s FCIAC finals, finished its season with a record of 13-3-3.
Cheshire had the better of the play in the first half, using a strong start and an early goal to seize the momentum and put pressure on Greenwich.
“The first half we started off really slow, they probably had about the first 10 minutes and we didn’t get much out of our own half,” Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam said. “Then they scored about 20-odd minutes into the game.”
Pannone’s go-ahead goal came off an assist from senior Murphy Malone, who lofted a pass into the box. Pannone found himself open and tapped the ball in for the goal.
“We are all about team,” Cheshire coach Artur Branco said. “I’m very happy for Marcello up front, but he’s there doing his job and the ball got to him from someone else, so we are a team-oriented type of club – everyone has to do their part.”
Pannone’s second goal occurred early in the second half, as he headed in a cross off a free kick, putting the Rams on top, 2-0. A defensive lapse had Pannone open at the post.
“We tried to get back into it and created chances for sure,” Putnam said. “Then within two minutes into the second half, it’s 2-nil off a free kick. They put three guys up, we have five guys back and somehow someone gets free at the back post and scored off a header.”
The Cardinals closed to within 2-1 when senior Alejandro Rodriguez scored off a pass from senior Christopher Valladares in the 63rd minute. Greenwich applied a good amount of pressure in the second half, but couldn’t tally the equalizer.
The loss marked the final game for more than 20 seniors on the Greenwich squad, including captains Santiago Borrego, Jake Hughe-Jones, Rodriguez and Andrew Lowitt.
“We just didn’t play our game,” Lowitt said. “It was similar to the FCIAC final (a 1-0 loss to Norwalk). “We were so lethargic and slow and we just didn’t play our game. This team has a lot of character, it’s a great group of guys. It’s unfortunate that it’s over.”
Andres Diosa, a senior, made several key saves in goal for Cheshire. Julian Colin, a GHS senior goalie, turned away numerous Rams shots.
“Greenwich is a great club, they’re very well coached and we have the utmost respect for them,” Branco said. “Obviously, we were trying to get them out of their game and things worked out our way, we were successful. If we played them again, I don’t know if the result would be the same result.”
The game marked the first time that Greenwich yielded more than one goal in a game since it played Ridgefield to a 3-3 draw on Oct. 7. Since then, the Cards had allowed only seven goals in their previous nine games.
“The season was like a roller coaster,” Hugh-Jones said. “We are proud of what we accomplished this season. It’s been a fun season, a great team, a great group of boys. In this game, similar to the other day against Norwalk, we started off too slow. They had a good game plan, they worked really hard and we just didn’t match their energy.”
“We wanted to get the ball down and play and that’s when we play our best and tear teams apart on the ground,” Hugh-Jones continued. “But we didn’t get it down enough the way we wanted. It was tough that we got down early and the second goal, that just can’t happen.”
Putnam enjoyed guiding his squad, which posted numerous impressive victories throughout the season.
“These are a great bunch of lads,” Putnam said. “The icing on the cake would have been winning the FCIAC title and looking back now, that was probably our better shot at winning something this year. We did play well and we had better chances in that game, it was a pretty even game.”