FCIAC boys soccer playoff preview
Below you will find the FCIAC boys soccer playoff field broken down into three categories: favorites, contenders and the field.
Normally there is some distinction between the top and the bottom, but this season that line is as blurry as it has ever been.
Take No. 8 Danbury, which has not lost in over two weeks closing the regular season. Over those final two weeks, the Hatters tied Norwalk and Trumbull 1-1 and beat Greenwich 1-0.
This tournament is traditionally wide open, but this year if you were not told which team was the higher seed, you may not be able to immediately discern who is No. 1 and who is No. 8.
It may be more appropriate to just label them all “contenders” and move on.
RIDGEFIELD TIGERS: Ridgefield is on fire. The Tigers lost their first two games of the season and only dropped one more the rest of the way. Want to beat the Tigers? You will need to solve a defense that’s allowed 0 goals in nine games this season and just 1 goal five times. Ridgefield brought back 18 seniors this year and that experience will be valuable come tournament time. PLAYER TO WATCH: Ridgefield may be locking teams down defensively, but it is striker JT Siano who has emerged as one of the league’s top scoring threats with a combination of foot speed and accuracy of shots making him dangerous.
GREENWICH CARDINALS: Greenwich has played in three of the last four league-title games and would love to make a fourth trip this year. With only three players back from last year’s co-champions, some may have thought Greenwich would take a step back. Guess what? They are right back on the top of the standings and ready for another run to the finals. PLAYER TO WATCH: Goalkeeper Jim Johnson was one of those returning players for Greenwich and he has not disappointed. The junior helped Greenwich to 8 shutout victories this season with his exceptional instincts and athleticism in goal.
STAMFORD BLACK KNIGHTS: Stamford’s only FCIAC title came as co-champion with New Canaan in 1997. This version of the Black Knights is talented enough to win another. Keeping possession and playing “the beautiful game” is how Stamford is successful, and if it can play its game, it will be hard to knock off. PLAYER TO WATCH: Ali Essallamy plays strong in central defense for Stamford, however, it is when he ventures up on offense he really needs to be watched. The senior used to play striker and has scored several important goals for the Black Knights this year in the moments when he pushes forward.
LUDLOWE FALCONS: With only 1 loss, Ludlowe slipped to the No. 4 spot by virtue of 6 ties (4 of those being 0-0). If you want to beat the Falcons you will need to score, and based on this season’s results, good luck with that. The Falcons have allowed 10 goals all season with half of those coming in two games — a 3-2 win over Greenwich and a 3-0 loss to Ridgefield. PLAYER TO WATCH: One of the Falcons’ offensive threats who will be counted is Jared Mirgorodsky up top. Mirgorodsky can score but has proved quite dangerous crossing the ball into the middle, creating scoring chances and picking up assists.
TRUMBULL EAGLES: Like Greenwich, Trumbull was supposed to be rebuilding, but also like the Cardinals, the Eagles seem to have just reloaded instead. The Eagles’ longest winning streak this year was three games, a feat they hope to repeat once the playoffs begin. PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Weinstein is the straw that stirs the offensive drink at Trumbull. Weinstein’s speed and skill with the ball make him a scoring threat at any moment in the game. Teams know this, of course, and will be man-marking Weinstein like the talented player he is.
NORWALK BEARS: The Bears got out to a 5-0 start to the season, but have stumbled a bit down the stretch, dropping 5 of their final 10 games closing out the regular season. Norwalk only defeated one other playoff team this season, besting Trumbull 3-0. PLAYER TO WATCH: Sebastian Echeverri is a technically sound player with the ability to make those around him better. This season, Echeverri has played up top for the Bears, being asked to fill up the goal.
STAPLES WRECKERS: It seems odd that the storied Wreckers have not been in the FCIAC championship game since 2011 and have not won since finishing off a three-peat in 2010. Thanks the quality of the league that is the reality facing Staples. The Wreckers defense has been stout, only letting up 10 goals this season. PLAYER TO WATCH: Staples has been led by a defense anchored by central defender Chris Martenson. He’s a tenacious defender and almost impossible to get by. The senior has excellent instincts along with the ability to move up into the attack when needed.
DANBURY HATTERS: Danbury was 3-4-4 at one point, but has gotten hot at the right time entering the playoffs, winning 4 of its final 5 games with one tie. If the Hatters can remain consistent for 80 minutes, they could make some noise. PLAYER TO WATCH: Midfielder Felipe Alves is one of the best defensive midfielders in the FCIAC. While ball control and defense are his trademarks, the senior can also drift up offensively when the time is right.