DARIEN — After failing to qualify for the FCIAC final for the second straight time, the Greenwich boys soccer team caught fire in the Class LL Tournament a year ago, taking a ride all the way to the championship game before a 3-1 loss to Hall.
The Cardinals, accustomed to playing a lot of seniors and reloading from a deep talent pool, relied on a number of juniors and entertained high expectations for this fall during the offseason.
Of course the Cardinals are now in the same situation as all would-be contenders, making the best of a reconfigured schedule.
“I think this year we would have had a good run again,” Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam said. “We would have had a good run in the FCIAC and we would have had a good run in the state tournament. At the beginning of the season I said look guys, the cards are what they are right now. We just have to play what we’re dealt with. We’re going to play 10 games, lets set ourselves a target of winning 10 games. That’s all we can do right now.”
And the Cardinals are close to that achievement. Last night’s 2-0 win over Darien improved their record to 8-0, with a home and home series remaining against Westhill. Then there will be a playoff against the same opponents from their region.
“We’re undefeated still and that’s how we came into the season,” midfielder Matias Lew said. “Even though it’s modified we want to win every game.”
If there was a state tournament right now the Cardinals would be the third seed, though that comes with an asterisk. Their West Region features several teams that likely would be competing for one of the last spots in the FCIAC Tournament, and a couple that were outmatched.
Against one of the above average sides, last night, the Cardinals displayed good ball movement that helped open space for their forwards at Darien. Isaac Dumeny scored both goals as the team was adept building plays from the back.
“It was definitely a good outing,” said Ryan Smith, who along with Lew are two of the team’s captains. “There was a lot of creativity in the midfield. Today was one of the best days we connected as a team. Playing one-twos and triangles and all that. I thought our wingers did extremely well.”
Greenwich for the most part has been playing home and home series. Missing are games against teams like Staples, which has become a top rival, and Wilton, which in a poll would likely be voted the top team in the FCIAC.
“Those were my favorite games last year,” Smith said. “They were by far the most competitive. Everyone left everything they could on the field. It’s a shame we can’t play them this year. Hopefully in the near future the younger guys will be able to play and experience the same things I did.”
Because of the depth on attack, Putnam has been playing a 3-5-2 that can morph into a 4-4-2.
The Cardinals are senior-laden but again have a number of juniors making contributions now who will be the nucleus next year, when hopefully things return to normal.
“We have I wouldn’t say inexperienced but hungry players that this is their first year on varsity and whoever plays, plays their heart out,” Lew said.
The final game of the FCIAC playoffs would normally be tonight. Instead, the Cardinals are playing mind games as their season winds down.
The deviation from a normal postseason is palpable.
“For an FCIAC Tournament you know that the eight teams going into it are quality,” Putnam said. “You know on any given day someone can put a little bit of a run together. That was always the nerves attached to it. You could go in as the one (seed) and catch the eight on a good day and you’re in for it. It’s not going not be the same.”
Nothing has been the same. Thus, the Greenwich players share a singular focus.
“Win every game,” Smith said. “Just make the season count even though it’s not the same as any season we’ve had before.”