Darien boys soccer team eliminated by Trumbull in FCIAC semifinals
FAIRFIELD -- It will be difficult for the Trumbull High boys soccer team to play much better than the Eagles did Wednesday night in the FCIAC semifinals. Trouble is, they may have to.
Trumbull advanced to Friday night's championship against three-time defending FCIAC champion Staples after defeating upstart Darien, 3-1, at Fairfield Ludlowe's Taft Field.
The Eagles were prolific on offense, scoring three goals that should make the 2011 THS highlight reel. The defense, led by goalie Nick Weinstein, was unbending, save for a meaningless Darien goal with 1:33 remaining in the contest. In all, it was exactly the kind of performance the Eagles will need Friday against the Wreckers, who defeated New Canaan 1-0 (3-2 penalty kicks) in the first game Wednesday.
"This," Trumbull coach Sebastian Gangemi said, "is playoff time. It's a time you have to play your best."
Trumbull (13-1-4), the No. 2 seed, earned the spot opposite No. 1 Staples thanks to a strong team effort. Matt O'Brien, Andrew Stratton and Keith Bond scored for Trumbull while Weinstein stopped seven shots, mostly all true testers, sending the Eagles into the final for the first time since they were co-champs with Staples in 2006.
"They scored three excellent goals, their goalie was great and it was as physical a game as you'll ever see," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "Trumbull thoroughly deserved it tonight."
One of the keys for the Eagles was thwarting Darien's early charge. In fact, 26 minutes in, the Blue Wave (12-3-3), which won just two games last season, thought they had a 1-0 lead. Matthew Collier apparently scored on a header but the goal was disallowed following an offsides call.
"The linesman didn't call it; the ref did," Bradley said. "It was unfortunate. Obviously the first goal in a game like this could change the complexion of the game. But we're not going to blame the referee."
Less than seven minutes later, Trumbull took a 1-0 lead when O'Brien beat a Darien defender to a loose ball and scored from 10 yards out. The Eagles then took a 2-0 lead 11 minutes into the second half on a beautiful header by Stratton off a long crossing pass from Bond.
Both Trumbull goals were works of art, but neither could compare to the individual effort Bond displayed in giving the Eagles a 3-0 lead with 8:38 remaining. He broke in alone, past two Darien defenders, and then beat Jack Fisher (seven saves) from 10 yards out.
"That third goal was tough to beat," Gangemi said. "Bond is a great player. I think he's the best player in the FCIAC."
Darien managed to avoid the shutout when Marcus Iqbal scored with 1:33 left to play. The Blue Wave were not going to the final, but a feeling of satisfaction, nevertheless, had to come over them as well.
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"To go from two to 12 wins is wonderful," Bradley said. "With 14 teams at home, not in the (semifinals), while we're here, well, it's a great achievement."