WESTPORT — After a slow start in which his players were not playing up to potential, not playing poorly and not getting the desired outcomes, Staples boys soccer coach Dan Woog emphasized his team was a work in progress.
Now, one game into the second half of an abbreviated season, the Wreckers are on an upward trajectory.
Staples scored twice in the first 17 minutes and rode consistent play to come away with an impressive 3-0 win today over Ridgefield at Loeffler Field, completing a sweep of the home-and-home series.
According the Woog, the secret to the Wreckers’ success is elementary.
“The progress is great,” Woog said. “We were not pleased not only how we were playing but the way we were playing. It was disconnected, it was disjointed. We’ve been working really hard in the last few sessions being able to play quickly and play it out of the back and switch fields. All the basics. And something clicked and the last couple of games, especially today, it clicked nicely.”
Alan Fiore scored a pair of goals and Jackson Hochhauser added another for the Wreckers, who improved to 2-2-2.
“We just show up to practice, bring intensity and play hard,” Fiore said. “Just getting used to playing with everyone. Getting the chemistry going and the results are coming. We’re more focussed and more used to playing with each other.”
Staples and Ridgefield are in the most difficult of the FCIAC’s three regions, which includes Wilton, Danbury, Norwalk and Brien McMahon. In a normal season, the top five teams in the current standings would likely qualify for the FCIAC Tournament, and Ridgefield would be a middle-of-the-pack team.
“Ridgefield is far better than its record shows,” Woog said. “We always say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and the finish this year is not a state tournament, but this group is as competitive as any group I know. They’re totally into it.”
Following up on a 3-2 win at Ridgefield five days ago, the Wreckers struck in the fifth minute, with Fiore finishing a set up by Surya Balaji for an early lead.
Moments after Ridgefield goalkeeper Jackson Ragland took a goal away from Haydn Siroka, Graham Barnes played creator and Hochhauser finished in the 17th minute.
The Tigers (0-6) were without four starters, three due to injury. Today was their most decisive loss — four have come by just one goal.
“The start has been a constant this season,” Ridgefield coach Phil Bergen said. “It’s becoming a psychological game. We had a chance early and didn’t score. If we score I think everything changes.”
There was constant activity on both sides. Five goalkeepers saw action and all were called upon to make demanding stops. The Wreckers’ defense, led by Balaji’s glorious play, was difficult to penetrate.
Fiore added an insurance goal in the 65th minute, settling a loose ball and with the keeper out hitting a nice shot that caromed off the bottom of the crossbar and into the goal.
Staples still has a home-field advantage with a grass surface (it was a throwback watching the Ridgefield players banging their cleats together after the game to remove mud).
“It’s a little slower on this surface than on turf but the ideas are there, the work rate is there, the brains are there,” Woog said. “Its been fun.”
Bergen was unduly hard on himself after the game.
“We’re in the most difficult group and if we had one win in there I’d feel a little more comfortable, it’s not my fault, but when you lose games 1-0 constantly you have to ask yourself what am I doing wrong?” he said. “That’s what I have to think about.”
Staples finishes up with McMahon, which has been postponing sporting events and gone to remote learning because of a Covid outbreak, and Norwalk.
“This format is fun,” Woog said. “It’s challenging, it’s different and we’re grateful to be out there every day. Every game is competitive and that’s the way it should be.”