Sometimes the offense has been more impactful than the defense, other times it has had to rely on opportunism in low-scoring games. No matter the strengths, the one constant for the Danbury boys soccer team has been its place in the standings.
The Hatters have ended the regular season among the top three teams in the FCIAC three of the last four years, earning the top seed in the playoffs two years ago. That was also the only year the Hatters have reached the league final — they lost to Trumbull — since sharing the title in 1998.
That streak won’t end this fall: due to the coronavirus pandemic the league has been split into three regions that will only play games within those pods. Situated in what is indisputably the most difficult division, all the Hatters can do is attempt to win every game.
While that no longer can happen, the Hatters’ 2-0-2 start after tonight’s 1-1 draw with Norwalk is a testament to what could be one of coach Antony Howard’s most skilled teams.
“We’ve got an inexperience squad, we graduated a lot, but we have an exciting team,” Howard said. “They play some good stuff. We have our weaknesses just like any team but when they get it going they look good.”
Despite graduating his entire back line, which was led by Tyler Warren, the Hatters have conceded just three goals. The defense is now led by twin brothers in the middle, Taylor Le and Tyler Le.
“They are very strong, athletic kids,” Howard said. “Being twins helps because they know each other better than anyone else in the world. I like to play in the back. Play with the ball.”
The defense is complemented by Matt Silva, one of the state’s best goalkeepers. A three-year starter, he has been a given for Danbury.
“We’re going to miss him,” Howard said. “He’s been excellent so far again. Goalkeepers don’t get a whole lot of love and he’s everything he’s had to be. He’s taken this new back four in front of him and worked them and communicated like goalkeepers do, and that has been key.”
Andres Aveiga Garcia, who moved to Danbury from Ecuador, just before the quarantine took effect last winter, has been an instant sensation at center midfield.
“A great passer, great touch, great vision,” Howard said.
That skill set has allowed Howard the luxury of moving his All-FCIAC midfielder from a year ago, Cris Carrasco, up front. He scored both goals in an opening-day win over Staples.
So far this is one of Howard’s most balanced squads.
“If I told you one of our strengths would be defending, I can’t say that because it’s a new backline,” Howard said. “I couldn’t tell you our strengths would be attacking and scoring because we struggled with that. Year after year the one thing I feel comfortable in is I will at least get players that can handle the ball. I think our strengths have always been our technical strengths in terms of handling the ball. Most coaches that play against us know they are going to play against a technical team. In Danbury we are very fortunate that we reload a lot of technical players every year. We can handle the ball.”
The Hatters are located in the Central Region, which could be the most difficult in any FCIAC fall sport. Danbury, Wilton, Norwalk and Staples would have started a regular season as title contenders, while Brien McMahon and Ridgefield are also solid.
Howard said in this unusual season, he will gladly settle for playing 10 games that will be competitive. In the first two home-and-home series, the Hatters have defeated both Staples and Norwalk and then tied in the rematch.
“When I saw the regions come out I was actually very happy,” Howard said. “I’m a coach that wants good games and wants the team tested. I don’t want to be in a league where we feel we are going to win every game or have that expectation to win every game. Right now we know every game is going to be great.”