FAIRFIELD — In the closing minutes of Tuesday’s frenetic 3-3 tie with Fairfield Warde, Paul Costa, the injured captain for Trumbull, looked down the sideline and said to no one in particular, “This is a great game for neutral viewers.”
In a wide open chess match where each side had to overcome deficits, the two squads reinforced their preseason status as FCIAC title contenders, playing at an almost dizzying pace. It is hard to imagine there being a more entertaining game this season.
Asked if he had ever been part of a contest so wide open and hurried, Thang Dao, who scored the goal that gave the Eagles’ a 3-2 lead, flashed a smile.
“Never. This is by far the most intense game of the season,” Dao said. “We were down 1-0, we just had to come back, wanted to come back with intensity and that’s exactly what we did. We played hard and the goals came to us. It was unlucky that they tied it.”
Both teams remain without a loss, as the Mustangs, in their first big test of the season, moved to 3-0-1. Trumbull is 3-0-2. They remained with Danbury and Greenwich the only unbeaten teams in the conference.
“This was unbelievable,” said Johnny Schuster, the Mustangs’ outstanding midfielder, who scored his team’s first two goals. “We have many good friends on the Trumbull team and it is fun to play against them.”I think it turned out so wide open because there are so many good players on both teams, so many technical players.”
Both teams went at each other from the outset, and though it took a while for the goals to come, once they did it was in a flurry — the first three in just under six minutes in the first half and the second trio in an eight-minute span midway through the second half.
Warde’s Jason Deck orchestrated the initial score, beating a defender off the dribble down the left side and putting a ball in the box that Schuster finished in the 22nd minute.
The lead proved short-lived. Two minutes later, off a scramble in the box, Dan Folchick was able to sneak a shot beyond the reach of keeper Matt Skelton to tie the score.
The most bizarre goal of the day came in the 24th minute, when the Mustangs were awarded a direct kick. While players on both sides were preparing to arrange their alignments, Schuster noticed that the Eagles had not asked the officials to mark off 10 yards. With play never halted, Schuster quickly approached the ball and scored into an empty net.
“I saw the keeper lining up the wall and none of the Trumbull players were set so I thought ‘Why not?’ ” Schuster said.
It is a situation that Warde coach Justin Ottavio said he has stressed with his players. Fortunately, his savviest one was positioned by the ball.
“We’ve talked in practice about that. If they don’t ask for 10…” said Ottavio, who added of Schuster, “His soccer IQ is amazing, his technical ability is very good. He just knows what’s going on. He’s a D1 player. He led us. That’s what great players do. They put their team on their back and carry them, and make other players play better.”
Humbled by the turn of events, the Eagles regrouped after the break and scored two quick goals. Jason Weinstein angled a shot into the far left post off a Noah Warren assist in the 50th minute, and Dao put the Eagles ahead off Folchick’s set piece.
“We made a little strategy change,” said Trumbull coach Sebe Gangemi. “We tried to get wider on the ball and created a little more room on the outside.”
Warde’s Jack Ryan hit a hard shot after being set up by Deck for the tying goal, and the tie held up despite a close call when Weinstein took a shot that caromed off the post.
“It was an even game,” Gangemi said. “A fair result. I’m OK with it. They are a tough team, a hard team. Punching and counterpunching the whole time. We will pick up the pieces from here and we will go forward.”