Published on November 11th, 2021 | by Staples Soccer0
State Tournament 2nd Round Match Report: Staples vs. Conard
Like Manchester — Staples’ first-round state tournament opponent — the Wreckers have a long history with Conard-West Hartford, today’s foe. It’s not one the current players know, though.
It’s a very interesting history too.
After beating the Chieftains 1-0 in the first round of the 1961 state tourney, Staples met Conard 3 consecutive times — each year in the finals. The 1970 teams battled to a 0-0 draw, and were co-state champs. In 1971 and ’72, the Wreckers won both times, by 1-0 scores. Those were part of an unprecedented — and so far unequaled — 5 straight state crowns.
The teams did not meet again until 2009. Staples won 4-1 in the first round, at Loeffler Field — and went on to win their 12th state championship.
The upstaters are a far better team than the 22nd seed, 7-7-2 record they brought to Wakeman Field might indicate. Staples did not take them lightly.
Knowing that junior Anthony Catanzaro was dangerous on the ball, the Wreckers assigned Caleb Tobias to him. Tobias is an experienced, tenacious and smart defender, but was used primarily at midfield this season. They also gave Ryan Thomas a start up top. He’s been on a hot streak lately, dishing off well and scoring on strong shots.
Both moves worked. Tobias kept Catanzaro at bay, while Thomas helped spark the attack.
The hosts controlled much of the tempo in the first half. They utilized both sides of the wide field, swinging the ball from the back while forcing Conard to chase. Solid combination play — like work from Murilo Moreno and Will Adams that resulted in a tip save on Jaden Mueller, leading to a corner kick — made it seem like a good would come momentarily. In the 33rd minute, Mueller almost connected on another corner. Matthew Jordan’s great run forward in the 37th minute gave more hope. There were several chances in the moments just before halftime. But the teams ended the first 40 minutes scoreless.
The senior-laden Westporters opened the second half with the same focus and intensity. Two more corner kicks — they had 10 on the day — also just missed.
In the 59th minute, a bang-bang series of shots in the box finally ended with a Conard clearance for a corner kick. Mueller once again served in. Moreno headed to Jackson Hochhauser, the defender and tri-captain who comes forward on set pieces. He finished calmly, from 5 yards out.
Conard came right back. A rocket on a breakaway caromed off the crossbar 3 minutes later.
Staples managed the game well, but with an extra forward, the Chieftains were dangerous. Two free kicks in the final 2 minutes were cleared out of danger, by the staunch back 4 led by Hochhauser and fellow captain Bruno Guiduli.
Head coach Dan Woog called the victory “a classic state tournament game. It was very hard fought on both sides. When it’s one-and-done, anything can happen. I thought our guys were very composed, and very patient. We had a game plan, and they stuck to it well. These are the kinds of matches you need to test your mettle. And every game from here on will be like this.”
The win vaults the Wreckers into the LL (extra large schools) quarterfinal. They’ll face Fairfield Prep on Saturday. The Jesuits edged Danbury 1-0 tonight, on a goal with 8 minutes to play. Kickoff time has not yet been set. FINAL SCORE: Staples 1, Conard 0. SEASON RECORD: 12-2-4.
QUICK KICKS: In other LL games reported so far, #8 Darien shut out FCIAC foe, #9 Ridgefield. #4 Greenwich was upended by #13 Cheshire, 2-1….
In addition to a long history with Conard teams, Staples knows their coach, Adam Linker, well. He starred at Glastonbury High School in the 1980s, then continued his stellar career at the University of Connecticut. He’s been the Chieftains’ coach for 2 decades. This afternoon, in a somber post-game meeting at Wakeman Field, Linker told his team that this was his last match. He decided earlier that this season was his last.