Staples boys topple Danbury in FCIAC soccer quarterfinals
It's amazing how the complexion of a soccer game can change so suddenly and so unexpectedly, how a game that lasts 80 minutes can be decided in a matter of seconds.
For most of Friday's FCIAC quarterfinal, the Danbury High boys sent wave after wave of attackers toward the Staples goal, creating one scoring chance after another. The Hatters never converted, but with so many chances, it seemed like only a matter of time before they finally banged one home and broke the scoreless deadlock.
However, on a rare possession deep in Danbury's defensive zone with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation time, Staples was awarded an indirect kick from just outside the box. Nate Argosh scored off a clever set piece to put the Wreckers on the board first, and Graham Gudis scored 61 seconds later as seventh-seeded Staples stunned second-seeded Danbury 2-1.
"We've had a really inconsistent year, but we seem to be hitting our stride right now," said Staples coach Dan Woog. "Big props to the defense (Gabe Pensak, Kenji Goto, Josh Berman and Grant Sirlin were the starters on defense) and the senior leadership."
The Wreckers had won five of their last regular-season games, so they entered the tournament with a good deal of momentum and confidence.
"We knew they were a very talented team. They were great. They moved the ball very well. They have very skilled players," Pensak said of Danbury. "But we just knew that if we played our game, kept our heads and weathered their storm, we could win the game. They were a very tough, very classy team, but we knew from the get-go that if we played our game, we were going to win."
The Wreckers advance to face third-seeded Greenwich -- a 4-1 winner over sixth-seeded Westhill Friday -- in the semifinals Monday at Ludlowe. Staples had beaten Greenwich 2-0 on Oct. 15.
"It was a real battle at our place," Woog remembered.
Staples was awarded the pivotal indirect kick when Danbury defender Brian Ramos -- who had played tremendous defense all game -- was whistled for a foul in the corner just a few feet from the box. Gudis took the kick and sent a low ball into the heavy traffic in front of the Danbury net. Pensak deflected it over to Argosh, who booted it home to put Staples up 1-0 in the 71st minute.
Just 61 seconds later, Patrick Beusse assisted Gudis' goal to make it 2-0 Wreckers.
The Hatters didn't go quietly, however.
When Danbury was awarded a corner kick in the 76th minute, goalkeeper Ian Shannon ran the length of the field, positioned himself in front of the Staples goal and headed home Grimaldo DeSousa's corner kick to cut the deficit to 2-1. But that was as close as Danbury came.
"If you miss opportunity after opportunity after opportunity -- where we didn't really even make the goalie make a save -- it's disheartening. The execution wasn't there. Their effort is great. I love my guys and I love the effort they bring. They always play hard, they always play respectfully to the other team and to the refs. But you have to execute. Staples had two opportunities in the second half, and they scored them both."
Staples goalkeeper Noah Schwaeber finished with three saves, while Shannon made three saves for Danbury, which was tied for seventh in this week's state coaches' poll.
STAPLES 0 2 -- 2
DANBURY 0 1 -- 1
Records: Staples 10-6-2; Danbury 11-3-3. Goals: S--Nate Argosh, Graham Gudis; D--Ian Shannon. Assists: S--Gabe Pensak, Patrick Beusse; D--Grimaldo DeSousa. Goalies: S--Noah Schwaeber (3 saves); D--Shannon (3 saves). Shots: S--10; D--9.