WESTPORT — In a postseason tuneup worthy of a playoff championship, the Staples and Wilton boys soccer teams played to a 1-1 draw this afternoon at Wakeman Field.
Both sides like to play a wide-open style, and neither held anything back as they tried to build momentum and enhance seeding for the conference playoffs, which begin on Thursday.
“It was fun. It was one of the most fun games I’ve been involved with in a long time,” Staples coach Dan Woog said. “Our guys played with joy, they played with passion. Wilton of course brought their A game. It was just a fun game to be part of.”
Perhaps fittingly, the two teams finished next to each other in the standings. Wilton, which made the biggest climb of any team this season, ended up 8-2-6. The Warriors are the fifth seed and will face Greenwich in the quarterfinals.
Wilton was outplayed for good part of the second half and, after being unbeaten four days ago, might have suffered its third straight loss if not for the spectacular effort of goalkeeper Jack Lynch.
“Staples came out with a lot of energy and we had a hard time trying to match it at certain points in the game,” Wilton coach Edwin Carvajal said. “They really got the gameplan right. We lost a lot of the midfield at one point and it hurt us, and you could see how it hurt us.”
Staples also got a great effort from its goalkeeper, Reed Caney, who was unyielding in assuring his team came away with a point. At 8-4-4, the Wreckers are the sixth seed and will travel to Danbury.
“Our mantra is we will play any team, any place, anywhere,” Staples coach Dan Woog said. “We don’t care. We’re just happy to be playing.”
Both goals today came in the first half, seven minutes apart.
Staples took a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute when Benny Feuer went high into the air and finished Patricio Perez Elorza’s corner kick.
The goal came after the Warriors had put a barrage of shots on Caney.
Wilton soon equalized. Nate Bennett, who did a good job creating chances at the start, banged home a rebound past Caney.
From there both sides applied pressure, testing defenses that bent but seldom broke. And when they did, Lynch and Caney held steady as the final line.
“Jack was an integral part of our game today,” Carvajal said. “He came up huge in the net and without him we would have had a harder game. Their goalkeeper also had a very stellar gameplan. He was off his line very quick when balls started getting slipped in and he did a great job as well. Today was a great day for the keepers.”
Lynch finished with nine saves, one more than Caney.
“Reed did a fantastic job and we tested their goalkeeper as well,” Woog said. “He came up big.”
Carvajal felt the Warriors could have secured a positive result and cautioned they will need to resort to earlier in the year, when finishing plays seemed to come more easily.
“Right in the beginning of the game we could have ended their gameplan quite quick but we keep on leaving teams in the game for a little bit and it will hurt us in the FCIACs,” Carvajal said. “It is going to hurt us if we leave them in the game for longer than they should be. Because I do have a talented group of boys. Incredibly talented. But we have to come back to our roots, go back to what we were doing at the beginning of the season and let go of all the emotions.”
Wilton’s game against Greenwich is a rematch from Friday, a 4-2 win by the Cardinals.
Staples lost at Danbury, 1-0, during the season. Woog will settle for a repeat performance from today.
“We played the ball quickly, we played the ball on the ground, we involved everybody,” Woog said. “We did what we wanted to do all year. And it was a team effort. Everybody contributed.”