GREENWICH — Kurt Putnam and Antony Howard spent part of today’s pregame discussing teams they may want to play and avoid in the upcoming FCIAC boys soccer tournament. They agreed there is no clear-cut favorite and thus preferred opponents were difficult to pinpoint.
Two hours later, after Putnam’s Greenwich side had handed Howard and Danbury their first loss, 2-0, the Hatters’ coach had an addendum to the earlier conversation.
“Postseason you’ve got to win games,” Howard said. “They performed great. I wouldn’t want to play them. If you speak to Kurt he’d love to play us in the postseason. If I were them I’d say I’ll take Danbury.”
The outcome was further evidence of the unpredictable nature of the league this season. Greenwich had been on a roll after a slow start, then suffered losses to Fairfield Warde and Norwalk. Today the Cardinals more resembled the team that has won two straight FCIAC titles.
“We created a lot more chances than they did,” Putnam said. “But what was nice was that level of intensity was back again and doubling down on defending. Just making it a lot more difficult for other teams to get anything going. I thought we played a lot more disciplined.”
Greenwich, which had dropped to seventh place in the standings, improved to 8-3-4. It will close out the regular season Saturday against Trinity Catholic, which has won once, and then hope that will be enough to try to get back up to at least fourth place and an opening-round playoff game at home.
The score was not indicative of how the Cardinals controlled tempo. They were boosted by Francisco Liguori, who missed several weeks with a badly sprained ankle. Today was just his third game back and the first he went the distance. He scored the team’s first goal and set up the second.
“It’s great to be able to come out here and bounce back from those losses and show everybody the team we really are,” Liguori said. “I’m super glad that I got the chance to play. The support of the boys was tremendous tonight. It showed in the result.”
Only a junior, Putnam said Liguori is one of those players who can take over and dictate play.
“He carries a big weight on his shoulders,” Putnam said. “I thought today he was incredible. He was back to his old self. Making tackles and then he has a little bit of a spark out there as well.”
Liguori struck in the 32nd minute. He got a ball in space and put it low into the left side of the net.
Danbury goalkeeper Matt Silva made a spectacular save moments later to keep the game close at the half. Dan Bourgeois was free in the box and tried to one-time a beautiful set up, but Silva came sliding out.
Silva was not so lucky in the 64th minute. He stopped Liguori as he tried to finish Chris Cruz’s corner kick, but Thomas Streiff was able to score off the rebound.
“It was super complete, the marking was tight. We were able to take advantage of our opportunities,” Ligouri said. “Even if the ball didn’t go in we still put pressure on them and did our best to get the best result from today.”
Danbury (9-1-5) suffered its first loss and was unable to string passes together.
“We got murdered. Not just first half but second half as well,” Howard said. “It was men versus boys all game. We don’t generate much attack hence why we’ve tied so many games. We come out flat. They beat us in the midfield, they beat us in the back, they beat us everywhere. It was almost a reverse. They were top of the league and we were middle of the pack.”
Like most everyone else, Danbury and Greenwich will bring unusual resumes into the postseason. The Hatters are 1-1-4 against teams that started the day in the top eight. They finish against Trumbull, which is one point behind the Hatters.
Greenwich now has defeated both Danbury and Trumbull. It also tied New Canaan, which has just one win.
“When we come out here to play, we play,” Liguori said. “And we win. That needs to continue.”