TRUMBULL — His team had lost four games in a row for the first time in six years after last Wednesday’s shutout loss to the team it beat nearly a year ago in the FCIAC championship game. So Sil Vitiello knew his Trumbull boys soccer team needed something positive to happen today against Fairfield Warde, and needed it fast if there was going to be any hope of turning this Covid-plagued season around.
And barely four minutes into today’s game, the Eagles got their wish.
“I told the team before the game that we needed something good to happen early,” Vitiello said.
Something good happened all right when Trumbull sophomore Franco Milovanov booted the ball as far as he could from just inside the midfield stripe. The ball sailed toward the goal, where Warde’s Sean Rodriguez, one of the top defenders in the FCIAC, tried to head the ball away. He miscalculated and the ball headed toward the goal and then past Warde goalkeeper Andrew Jones.
Eighty-six minutes later the Eagles had a 2-1 victory, one that they hope will be looked back upon as the turning point of their season.
“It certainly helped us relax after losing four in a row,” Vitiello said about his now 2-4 team.
Normally, a goal like that so early in a game might also affect the team that gave it up but more in a negative way. Warde coach Justin Ottavio didn’t think so.
“It definitely inspired Trumbull but I don’t think it impacted our confidence,” Ottavio said. “We were down 2-0 later in the half and we kept on pressing, so I don’t think it affected us that much.”
Trumbull, clearly inspired by the early turn of events, kept the pressure on Jones and the Mustangs (2-3-1) throughout the rest of the half. First Carrigan Culligan, who is the lone returner from last year’s FCIAC championship team, and received All-FCIAC honors, had a great chance to make it 2-0. However, his header went about two inches over the crossbar in the 11th minute.
But then, 2½ minutes later, Trumbull’s Ethan David made sure the lead would balloon to two goals. David took a beautiful feed from Milovanov just past midfield and streaked down the left side. He angled in toward the goal and finished the great individual effort by blasting a perfect shot past Jones (four saves) into the right corner of the goal, giving the Eagles a 2-0 advantage.
“Franco made a great pass to me and I’ve been working on moving the ball from center to attack,” David said. “Franco fed me beautifully and I was able to finish it off from about 15 yards out.”
“Franco is young but is wonderfully talented,” Vitiello added about Milovanov. “He fought off a defender and then made a nice delivery to Ethan.”
It was a big goal and did indeed prove to be the game-winner after Warde scored later in the first half. But David knew what the real key goal of this game was.
“It was an own-goal but a goal is a goal and it was a great service by Franco,” David said of the first goal of the game. “Any goal that early will lift a team and we needed a lift. It got us over the hump. It was 100 percent the start to turning it around for us.”
Warde cut the lead in half with 18 minutes remaining in the opening half on another odd play. Warde’s Lucas Thompson lifted a shot from about 35 yards away from the Trumbull goal, with no real intent on scoring. But the ball bounced twice before reaching Trumbull goalkeeper Jack Lumpinski (six saves), and a strange final bounce didn’t help. The ball ended up going through Lumpinski’s legs and rolled into the net.
“I don’t know if it screwed one way or another,” Vitiello said, “but there was a lot of knuckle action on that shot.”
Warde had a much easier time last Wednesday when the Mustangs beat the Eagles 2-0. Did that outcome have an effect on Monday’s return match?
“I’d like to say that it didn’t affect our mentality,” Ottavio said. “But we’re a young team so . . .”
Warde had the better of play in the second half but a determined Trumbull defense, led by Milovanov, wasn’t going to budge. Now we’ll see if the early goal proves to be the spark the Eagles needed to turn this season around.
“Spark? I hope it will turn into that,” Vitiello said. “We have Fairfield Ludlowe next so we’ll recover from this game and then see if we can duplicate it.”