TRUMBULL – Stamford High School boys soccer coach Mario Caminiti insisted that tonight’s early-season showdown against Trumbull was not a revenge game. OK, but let’s just say his Black Knight players looked rather content after their 1-0 victory.
“This was not for revenge,” he said, referring to the two tough losses Trumbull hung on the Knights late last season. A few days after rallying from a two-goal hole to win the regular-season finale at Stamford, the Eagles knocked Stamford out of the FCIAC playoffs at home before going on to become co-champions.
“I don’t care about what happened in those two games last year,” Caminiti continued. “We just needed this after losing our first game (to Fairfield Ludlowe) and were focused on that.”
Like last season’s playoff game, when the Eagles scored three early goals in a nine-minute span, Trumbull came out fired up. But instead of another three-goal lead, the Eagles, or more specifically forward Anthony Barreira, were denied by Stamford goalkeeper Alex Grabar and the Stamford defense.
Barreira could have had three first-half goals but the teams went into halftime locked in a scoreless duel.
“We put a lot of pressure on them in the first half and (Barreira) certainly had his chances but couldn’t finish,” Trumbull coach Sebe Gangemi said. “And then we make one stupid mistake on defense; they had one chance on goal and it went in. But Stamford is a very good team.”
Stamford did indeed take advantage of its only real scoring chance, in the 55th minute. The ball was loose about 15 or 20 yards in front of the Trumbull goal before Stamford senior Bogdan Chervak gained control and chipped the ball just over the head of Trumbull goalie Andrew Menjiver (three saves).
“Trumbull had chances and it could’ve been a lot different, but it worked out for us,” Caminiti said. “It was a well-earned victory.”
After Chervak’s goal, the senior Grabar, who finished with eight saves, then mimicked his first-half performance in goal. He frustrated the Eagles by turning aside several dangerous shots, including two in rapid-fire order by Barreira, who was just to the left of the Stamford goal with four minutes remaining in the second half.
“I have to give props to our defense,” Grabar said about the unit led by senior Ali Essallamy. “Trumbull had a lot of chances but we were all in lockdown mode and kept them from scoring.”
“Alex is one of the better goalkeepers in the league,” Caminiti added. “Hopefully he will start getting some recognition around the league.”
Caminiti is hoping that will also be the case for his entire team. The Knights (2-1), who overcame a sluggish first half to beat Ridgefield after losing their opener to Ludlowe, needed this game. Not so much to avenge those losses to Trumbull last season but to show the league that they belong in the championship conversation.
They won’t have to convince Gangemi.
“We didn’t perform to our expectations today, and we’re better than this,” said Gangemi, whose team defeated Ridgefield and Darien in its first two games. “But Stamford deserves credit. I have no doubt they are a legitimate championship contender.”