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Naugatuck hands Raiders first loss

POSTED September 26, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

  Naugatuck hands Raiders first loss

            TORRINGTON – I don’t know, call me crazy but Torrington and Naugatuck just seem to leave you with the feeling that they are not exactly enamored with one another on the soccer field.

            You know, two proud programs with rich histories nearly always near or at the top of the league standings. All of which produces an elevated testosterone level marked by abundant yakking, complaining and physical play.

            Oh and did we say some really marvelous and entertaining games.  But back to the dislike part. Naugatuck coach Art Nunes says don’t believe. This is a love affair.

            “Even though it looks like they don’t like each other, they like to face each other,” said Nunes. “They each know they are going to be tested.”

            “They love to play each other,” echoed Nunes counterpart Torrington coach Mike Fritch.

            Well, be assured there aren’t Christmas greeting and birthday wishes being exchanged. However, the battles tend to take on memorable status.

            And so it was Wednesday night at the Robert H. Frost Complex with two teams undefeated entering the game. Just another Torrington-Naugatuck saga. Raiders lead, Naugatuck takes control and appears ready for victory, Torrington come back, Naugatuck wins in the final minute, 3-2.

            On an own-goal no less. We should know by now.

            First, the last. Naugatuck’s Josh Corbo lofted a corner kick in front of the Torrington goal that Ficundo Coitino barely got a foot on but it was enough to deflect the ball off of Torrington’s Nick Mancini’s left shoulder and into the net with 54 seconds to go.

            “I was standing in front of the box and wanted to block his (Torrington goalie Zack Paniati) vision,” said Coitino. “The ball went over the defensive back and I just clicked it with the back of my heel. (Paniati) never saw me.”

            It was a crazy end to a crazy second half. Naugatuck seemed to have put the game away with 8:41 left when Adam Branco scored his second goal off a header in front of the net. The feed coming on a gorgeous short chip from Fernando Branco who fluffed up the ball from about five yards away near the right post.

            In a half dominated by Naugatuck (15-5 shot advantage), Torrington’s day seemed done. Ah, we should know better when these two teams hook up.

            Almost out of nowhere, Amar Suljic got loose in front of the net and punched the ball in to tie the game with 3:40.

            Overtime, right? Ah, we should better when these two teams hook up.

            Naugatuck, who had entered the game having outscored its opponents, 30-1, moved ahead in the Copper Division of the NVL with a 3-0 mark (6-0 overall) while Torrington (5-1) dropped to 1-1.

            But the Raiders weren’t exactly folding up the tent here.

            “Yeh, it’s disappointing but you’ve got to let it go by 10 p.m.,” said Fritch. “All they won is a game. One game.”

            The rather freakish ending notwithstanding, the Greyhounds did it in impressive style. After controlling the first half only to fall behind 1-0 when John McCarthy got a step on the field and converted a pass from Shane Bierfeldt for a goal, Naugatuck owned the final 40 minutes.

            Utilizing their typical passing game, Naugatuck kept the ball on the Torrington side of the field and Paniati pretty busy. The imposing goalie and Adam Branco got to check out one another’s breath mints with Branca scoring twice and Paniati robbing him three times from up close and personal distance.

            “We didn’t keep to ourselves in the first half,” said Branco. “We let the fans, refs and opponents dictate the pace. In the second half we kept the ball on the ground, switched fields and I stayed in the middle while the outside made their runs.  I tend to run all over the place. I have to learn to say in the middle with the double and triple teams and let the outside run.”

            Branco knotted the game at 1-1 when he pounded in a rebound of Joe Martins’ shot.

            The winners won the shot battle, 20-8. Paniati had nine saves for Torrington while Naugatuck’s Fez Pereira had four saves.

            The two teams will meet again for another love fest later in the year. Never a dull moment here.   

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