GREENWICH — The Greenwich boys soccer team’s 1-0 setback at Staples one month and one day ago marked the program’s first two-game losing streak is nearly six years.
It was a moment for introspection. Cardinals coach Kurt Putnam said he watched the tape of the game three times. Most of the issues, he determined, were less physical and more mental.
That was the theme leading up to the teams’ rematch today, in the quarterfinal round of the FCIAC Tournament.
“If we play the same way we did the first time against them we’ve lost,” Putnam said he told his players. “Because they’re a good side.”
The Cardinals came out with a superior work rate from the outset, scored two early goals and made them hold up for a 2-0 win. Seeded second, they will meet No. 6 Norwalk in Monday’s semifinals.
“Every loose ball, we were much more competitive in the air with the balls but we caused them so many more problems,” Putnam said. “Stuff we’ve been working on came out and comes out when we play with more intensity and move the ball around. We created a lot more opportunities to score more goals.”
Greenwich has gone 8-1-1 since the first meeting with the Wreckers.
“That was complete motivation,” Cardinals goalkeeper Jimmy Johnson said. “When we went to their place we were a little bit off our game, we were a little bit slow, what happened today we came out right at the gun and showed them what we can do.”
Asked to account for the difference in his team the past month, Johnson said, “I think it’s mostly our training and the attitude going into game day. There was a stretch of four games where we were not focused well, not doing well during practice and I think right after that we tightened it up a little bit and worked more like a team.”
Greenwich (12-4-1) struck in the 8th minute, with Federico Irigoyen playing a ball to Adam Juszczyk, who got free in the defense and scored for a 1-0 lead.
The Cardinals again found a shooter in space in the 16th minute, with Fermin Mendive dribbling in and scoring for a 2-0 advantage.
Greenwich controlled time of possession and dominated the contest, a rarity in what has become a good rivalry. This was the second straight year the Wreckers’ conference season ended in the first round at Cardinal Stadium.
“We were chasing the game,” Staples coach Dan Woog said. “We chased the game right from the start. Usually Staples-Greenwich are pretty classic affairs and this wasn’t. They beat us all over the field. Greenwich created chances, they had us on our heels the first 15 or 20 minutes, they got a couple in. It was not the game we wanted to play and it was the game we ended up playing.”
Though the Cardinals were unable to finish any of their other opportunities, Putnam was satisfied with how they closed out the game.
“You can’t take your foot off the gas and they didn’t,” Putnam said. “You can’t let down on a 2-nil lead, especially against a team like Staples. Momentum can change so quick. I was proud of the way the guys stuck at it.”
Putnam credited the Wreckers with helping him to drive his players. He said he told Woog and his staff after the game, “You’re the ones who made us have to get to this point because we weren’t very good against you. We said to beat you we had to be at our best.”
Putnam added, “They brought the best out in us. It was a very different game when we played them at their place.”
Woog, whose team is now 8-5-4, said he will use today’s outcome as a building block to prepare for the state playoffs.
“They beat us to balls, they beat us to headers, they played with more passion than we did and that’s not usually the case in these games,” Woog said. “We’re going to figure out what we did wrong, how we didn’t prepare well enough, what we need to do for our third season. But as we just said to the team this one’s on all of us. It’s on the players, it’s on the coaches, it was not a good game.”
Greenwich defeated Norwalk during the regular season, 4-0.
“We’re excited for it,” Johnson said of the semifinals. “We beat them but we still have to go in hard. We’re not going to go in any easier than we did today.”