The FCIAC boys and girls soccer playoffs begin Wednesday at Fairield Ludlowe and Wilton, respectively. In a sense, the four teams on each side, especially the boys, have achieved something by just reaching the playoffs. The league wisley only awards spots to the top four teams.
On the flip side, there’s a large contingent out there that for whatever reason think the FCIAC is the best league in Connecticut. While I will agree it is strong, there’s pretty much no way to quantify that assumption.
Then again, that’s what the world of soccer is all about. People like to speculate which league is the best in the world. All I can say is that it isn’t the MLS or the Australian A-League.
Enough of my yakkin’, let’s look at the teams.
Semifinals –Wednesday at Fairfield Ludlowe
Finals – Friday at Wilton, approx 7:30 p.m.
Defending champ – Greenwich/New Canaan (co-champs)
Game 1 — No. 2 Trumbull (12-0-4, 40 pts) vs. No. 3 Westhill (11-1-4, 37), 6 p.m.
Game 2 – No. 1 Staples (13-1-2, 41) vs. No. 4 Greenwich (11-2-3, 35) approx. 40 mins after first game
Whew. That’s a sound that coaches don’t want to hear from their teams right now. Yes, it is an impressive feat to make the playoffs. But teams need to worry about that on Thanksgiving, not now.
There can’t be any letdown. Not here.
Still, Trumbull deserves credit, win or lose for finishing the 16-game grind without a loss. There’s a school of thought that the true test of ther better team comes over 16 games, than a two-leg, do-or-die playoff.
By that logic, Staples, with its free-flowing Matt Lamb, Brendon Cristobaland Russell Oost-Leivense attack, is the league’s best team, only dropping seven of 48 points at stake. The Wreckers should also have a mild psycological egde against Greenwich, having soundly defeated them 6-2 less than two weeks ago on Oct. 21.
Greenwich boss Kurt Putnam won’t let his team, which last year split the spoils with New Canaan after an undefeated regular season, forget that result with Staples.
Staples, though, enters the game on a big-time roll, with a lot of hungry seniors.
Meanwhile, Trumbull and Westhill should be a downright interesting contest.
Two weeks ago the teams drew 0-0 down in Stamford. The result seemed to trigger a downward spiral for the Vikings. Westhill enters the game in its last five: D-W-D-L-W. The loss, to Fairfield Ludlowe on a Jeff Swan goal, was Westhill’s first.
Westhill is a team that thrives on rythmn. They’ll need to regain their form quickly on what figures to be a chilly night at Ludlowe.
Rob Bronski and the Eagles would love to throw the Vikings out of their comfortable level. But playing only three in the back, could pay for it.
Hard tackling and grit should be the word of the day. Should be a good one.
It bears noting that Staples and Westhill split the crown in 2000. Westhill is the last of the four to win it outright, coming in 2001. Trumbull has never won the FCIAC, while Staples and Greenwich have numerous titles under their respective belts.
Let’s just hope that it doesn’t come down to penalty kicks Friday night.
Oh wait, the FCIAC would rather have a tie so no one’s feelings are hurt. It might be good enough to decide a World Cup final, but not our league.
Semifinals – Wednesday at Kristine Lilly Field, Wilton.
Finals – Friday at Lilly Field, 7:30 p.m.
Defending champs: Trumbull/Wilton co-champs
Game 1 – No. 2 Trumbull (14-0-2, 44 pts) vs. No. 3 St. Joseph (13-3, 39), 6 p.m.
Game 2 – No. 1 Wilton (15-0-1, 46) vs. Greenwich (11-3-1), approx. 40 mins. after first game
First and foremost, the league needed a better way to decide its fourth team than flipping coin to decide the fourth playoff team, which it did with Greenwich and New Canaan. The schools finished with the same record, drew in the regular season and neither beat either of the three other playoff teams.
Do a play-in game. Ever hear of goal differential? Play a video simulation. Something other than flipping a coin.
That said, it’s hard to say this tournament is anything other than a rematch of last year for Trumbull and Wilton.
Yes, St. Joseph and Trumbull is a nice semifinal. Cross-town schools, playing again. But on opening night Trumbull handled St. Joseph 3-0 and the Eagles seem to have the Cadets number in recent years. St. Joseph coach Jack Noguiera will press his kids, but it just might not be enough to crack Trumbull’s stingy backline.
Wilton’s only blemish is a tie against Trumbull. With hard-charging forward Devon Bryn the Warriors have been near-unstoppable to slow down. And the Warriors certainly aren’t on a one-man team. Bryn has excellent support from the rest of the unit.
Still, Trumbull coach Dan Uhrlass and his experienced bunch won”t capitilate to Wilton. When they drew 1-1 in October, Trumbull scored within a minute of Wilton’s goal.
Last year they played out a thrilling 2-2 draw. Trumbull held an early 2-0 lead, but Wilton never gave up and knotted it up very late. In the last minute Kate Macauley made an incredible run from midfield, getting dragged down in the box for a penalty kick. Wilton missed and it ended a draw.
It bears nothing that in the first half of that game, Trumbull sliced and diced its way through Wilton. Most of the key performaners that night are back, except for the starting goalies.
Wilton will need to be careful to fouling anyone near the area, since Caitlin Mulligan is a set piece specialist for the Trumbull.
Should both teams win their first game, a classic could ensue.
One quick little rant. We all realize the rules for high school soccer have about as much in common with the FIFA standard as a bald eagle and pine tree. In other words, not much.
But for the playoffs, could we try, just try, to not have a running clock and let the refs keep the time on field. Is there anything more frustrating for team than having time run out for them as they’re lining up a corner kick or something.
Just a thought.