FAIRFIELD — The opening game was more like a first scrimmage for the rival Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe boys soccer teams, which is one reason both coaches came away optimistic following a 0-0 tie tonight at Taft Field.
There were few good scoring chances and both goalkeepers — Warde’s Andrew Jones and Ludlowe’s Michael Loya — enjoyed relatively tranquil nights. But considering how little work both sides have had, there were a number of positives to compensate.
“Momentum wavered back and forth,” Mustangs coach Justin Ottavio said. “There was some kick-and-run style soccer. There were periods when it was brilliant on both ends. We both had an opportunity to settle the ball and play to feet. I think it’s foreshadowing of what our end result can be, it’s just building to consistency. The more we play, the more we practice, things will level out and both teams will get back to their true form.”
The game was postponed from last week because of a coronavirus outbreak at Ludlowe that shut down the school’s athletic department for a number of days. The Falcons had four practices the last two weeks prior to tonight.
“I can’t be too upset with my boys, they worked hard,” Falcons coach Kevin O’Hara said. “Fair enough to them, they fought real hard tonight. It’s two young teams that didn’t play in the spring and didn’t get anything in the summer. We’re nowhere near but there are a lot of bright spots. We have some young talent.”
The Falcons were without one of their stars, forward Matt Rullo, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Warde won the FCIAC regular season title a year ago, lost to Trumbull in the league final and graduated a number of starters. The Falcons ended up with the eighth-best record, losing only three times but finishing with seven ties.
The defenses tonight were effective, both marking and clearing balls, particularly on set pieces. There were stretches when the teams were able to build attacks and string together passes, but what was missing was that final delivery that put an attacker with the ball in space.
“Both teams were equally dangerous on set pieces,” Ottavio said. “They have the height advantage but we had some brilliant balls served in, some in swingers, some out swingers.”
The best opportunity came in the 55th minute, when Ludlowe put a ball in the box that got through a wave and was headed toward the goal until the Mustangs’ Sean Rodriguez cleared it off the line.
The Falcons became one of the first teams in state history to hold a senior night before having even one friendly. Many teams, with the future uncertain, are honoring their seniors at the start of the season.
The two teams are in a region with six other schools — non-FCIAC teams Fairfield Prep, Harding and Bassick are part of it as the CIAC instituted regionalized play for an abbreviated 10-game season. This is one of the few pods that won’t have strictly home-and-home series, which will give the appearance of a normal schedule in condensed form.
And both Ottavio and O’Hara left the field tonight with reason to believe once the final game is played their teams will finish high in the standings.
“We put the ball on the ground and this team needs to put the ball on the ground to be successful,” Ottavio said. “We just don’t have the aerial ability that we’ve had in the past but we have the technical ability and we just have to develop that soccer IQ.”
Added O’Hara, “My starting formation is not going to be at the end of the year what it was at the beginning of the year. The kids aren’t going to be playing this way at the end of the year. It’s only a month. You are staying positive and taking everything in stride this year. Overall it was a good effort. We have a lot of work to do but I’m happy.”