Daniel scores twice in overtime to lift Naugatuck past New Milford in Class LL
NAUGATUCK — New Milford boys soccer coach Lou Pereira knew at some point his team’s incredible run of missed chances in the first half of the Green Wave’s Class LL second round game against Naugatuck could cost his team dearly.
He probably didn’t see the manner in which it would cost them, though.
A remarkable 30-minute stretch included four goals from the Greyhounds — two of which were scored by senior Samuel Daniel to begin overtime — sealed a 4-2 win for No. 4 Naugatuck. The incredible turnaround sends the Greyhounds to the quarterfinals, where they will host No. 5 Hall on Friday.
“All year we’ve shown a lot of resiliency and character,” Naugatuck coach Ryan Kinne said. “We went down 2-0, we switched to a 3-5-2 and it changed things immensely.”
The Green Wave dominated the first 50 minutes of the game and on most days would have scored a handful of goals before the break. Between difficult finishing and a pair of miraculous saves from Naugatuck goalie David Green, the deadlock wasn’t broken in the first half.
“We must have had 10, 12 chances in the first half,” Pereira said. “And we couldn’t put them away and that comes back to haunt you.”
New Milford still kept its foot on the gas, though, and scored twice in quick succession to take the lead. Christian Mendoza and Alec Llerna found the back of the net to seemingly give the Green Wave passage to the next round despite the missed opportunities.
The second goal brought the hosts to life, though, and the rest of the game was largely one-way traffic on the New Milford net. Chris Akindura gave Naugatuck (15-1-2) hope with a goal with 24 minutes left, but the Green Wave kept their lead until very late.
“The first goal that Chris scored gave us some confidence,” Kinne said. “We realized there was a lot of time left so we continued to press forward. We found the equalizer late on … I’m incredibly proud of the group.”
Qaseem Zia stepped up and converted a cross with just 3:31 left that sent the contest to overtime. The Green Wave had a pair of chances to win the game right before overtime, including a shot by Mendoza that was cleared off the line. Before New Milford could blink, Daniel scored the first of his two goals in seven minutes to ice the game.
“I’m usually right footed but that was my left foot and I was just thinking I’m going in,” Daniel said of his first goal. “I just ran away from the defender; I saw the goalie coming out and just put it in.”
It all meant the Green Wave’s season ended at 11-6-2.
“I thought we had a great season considering last year we were 5-11-2,” Pereira said. “We do have a lot of seniors but we do have young guys who play too so it was a good mix. We had a great family atmosphere and the kids worked their tails off.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It seems unlikely that a goalie decided a 4-2 contest, but David Green saved the Greyhounds when they were on their heels.
“He was unbelievable,” Kinne said. “From a kid last year who hadn’t played since 9/10, he worked all year with a trainer and this year early in the season he showed some signs of nerves. But to see the strides he made all year, and to keep us in this game was ridiculous.”
“The first half was the best half we played all season,” Pereira said. “The wind got to us in the second half kind of like it hurt them in the first half. I told the boys to keep the ball on the ground but we started to panic and made mistakes.”