WILTON — The members of the Wilton boys soccer team are making the transition from league surprise to championship contender with their feet, not mouths.
They can tell you how good they believe they can be, but they would rather show you.
And today, against conference preseason favorite Danbury, they did not take long to state — rather, demonstrate — their case. In a masterful sequence, the Warriors built an attack from the back with a series of direct passes. The last, by Michael Zizzadoro, freed Liam McLaughlin in space to deliver a shot into the left corner of the goal.
That play, in the 2nd minute, set the tone for an emphatic 3-0 win that kept Wilton unbeaten midway through the season — you read that correctly — and reaffirmed there are more viable championship contenders than originally thought.
“It’s a good day,” Wilton coach Edwin Carvajal said. “That early goal really put us in a good position to continue to have our gameplan in place.”
Carvajal, who made the climb to first-year varsity coach after stints with the freshmen and junior varsity programs, said that strategy centered on taking Danbury midfielder Victor Oliveira out of the game.
“Our gameplan is always to kind of sit, make sure we plug in the holes at midfield and make sure No. 8 doesn’t get the ball as often as he does,” said Carvajal, referring to Oliveira. “He is their engine, he does a really good job moving the ball so we wanted to make sure we plugged in all the holes centrally and worked from there.”
Actually the Warriors (6-0-2) flourished more by dominating time of possession and doing good things with the ball. They are now tied for second place with Fairfield Warde, one point behind the Hatters with a game at hand.
“I felt like coming into this game we were super-focused and ready to go,” McLaughlin said. “As soon as the whistle blew we knew what we had to do. Right from the get-go.”
The Hatters (7-2) started the week unbeaten before suffering a 1-0 loss to Warde. There were bigger losses today: center backs Tyler Warren and Joe Mooney left the game early with ankle injuries. For a team built around defense, the absence of either — Warren is generally regarded as the best player in the conference — for a period of time would prove costly.
The manner in which the outcome occurred left Danbury coach Antony Howard forlorn. At halftime he expressed the hope his team would be able to keep it a one-goal game. At the end he canceled practice for tomorrow.
“I don’t want to be on the training field tomorrow, that’s how bad I feel right now,” Howard said. “I saw it coming. Warde was the eye opener. We’re very mentally and physically weak. Against top teams we’ll get exposed for that reason alone. We think being technically good is enough. It’s not. I don’t think the boys realize that. I’m going to take responsibility. It’s not the right blend. Wilton was really good today. Their coach does a great job. It is a pleasure to watch them, it is a pleasure to watch them do well.”
Wilton extended its lead in the 43rd minute. A set piece by Zizzadaro was deflected off the post by Danbury keeper Matt Silva. The rebound came out to Connor Uitterdijk, who repositioned it into the net.
Andrew Zizzadoro closed out the scoring in the 59th minute.
Carvajal said his players’ mindset has accelerated his long-term plans.
“I saw talent everywhere and I’ve known this team has always had talent because I got to watch them the last three years,” Carvajal said. “I’m really glad at the way they’ve bought into this system, bought into the instruction that I want to deliver and that’s a huge thing. They’re coachable, which is awesome.”
Equally awesome is the maturity the Warriors have demonstrated in handling their success. After the game today they proved they are confident, not cocky.
“That’s one of the biggest things we’ve tried to instill here,” Carvajal said. “At this point we haven’t proved anything. We’ve made a lot of noise but we’ve still got to make sure we continue this movement forward, try to make the program better. Trying to rebuild. These guys have really bought into that ideal.”