WESTPORT — It took 546 minutes into the season before an opponent put a ball in the net against the Greenwich boys soccer team.
That finish by Brendan Lynch, off a set piece, provided the separation that lifted Staples to a 1-0 victory this afternoon in a fast-paced game with repeated chances by both sides.
It will take some doing to top the effort by both teams this season in terms of entertainment value.
“It was an amazing game to play in, with a big game like that, and then having the guys rush you at the end is a great feeling that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Staples goalkeeper Reed Caney. “During the game I wasn’t thinking about how big the game was. Just making the next save, making the play I needed to make and helping my team win.”
There were a lot of next saves, by both Caney and his counterpart, Greenwich’s Padraig Colligan. This just as easily could have been a 5-4 outcome if not for the herculean effort by the goaltenders, as both sides took turns setting up attacks and creating good opportunities.
“It was a pretty even game honestly,” Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam said. “They had good chances, we had good chances. We missed a penalty, they missed a penalty. Our goalkeeper pulled off more saves in the second half, their goalkeeper pulled off more saves in the first half. It is what it is.”
The tone was set in the fourth minute, when the Cardinals (6-1) were awarded a penalty kick after a hand-ball on a set piece. Caney, a junior who has continued to elevate his play, made a diving save to deny the Cardinals’ Joao Lima.
“Saving the PK early helped with my confidence,” Caney said. “It keeps you involved in the game, keeps your head in it and you have to be in it every moment to be ready to make that save to help your team win.”
Staples coach Dan Woog has been impressed with Caney’s maturation.
He has great instincts, very good hands, bangs the ball,” Woog said. “He’s not that experienced but he’s smart and he’s figuring it out. That certainly fired us up.”
The game continued on a frenetic pace, with the best action coming after halftime. Caney stopped a drive by the Cardinals’ Jeanel Boone and the rebound try by Lucas Toro.
Staples upped its attack, but Colligan demonstrated tremendous reflexes, deflecting four shots in a short period of time. The best save was a point-blank touch by Benny Feuer.
It looked like the game was going to end in a scoreless tie before the Wreckers finally scored, though that goal did not come easily. Patricio Perez Elorza delivered a ball into the box. After a scramble in front, Lynch was able to drive a shot into the net.
“The ball came across from a free kick out on the left and we talked at halftime about how the sun was going to be in the goalie’s eyes, and the ball came across and I saw it hit the post and I was right there,” Lynch said.
A third goaltender got into the act at the end. The Wreckers were awarded a penalty kick after Corrigan made contact with a Staples player as he headed up after making a save.
Aidan Munoz came off the bench and made a stop on Surya Balaji.
The two teams have developed a strong rivalry, and this game will only add to it. Staples eliminated the Cardinals in last year’s FCIAC Tournament, but Greenwich had won the previous four meetings by a 7-1 margin. The teams have met in the postseason the last three years.
The Wreckers had also suffered a pair of 1-0 losses, to Danbury and Fairfield Warde, this season.
“It is much better to be on the winning side,” Caney said. “It will help propel us during the season and give us a lot more confidence and encourage the team going through.”