Anderson's goal lifts Eagles past Darien

The Trumbull High boys soccer team might never again duplicate the brilliance it displayed during the magical 2011 season, a storybook campaign led by All-New England midfielder Keith Bond that ended with an FCIAC title and an appearance in the Class LL finals.

As head coach Sebastian Gangemi said, that was a once-in-a-lifetime player on a once-in-a-generation team.

But that doesn’t mean the Eagles aren’t dead set on trying. Restoring the pride in one of the FCIAC’s top programs was No. 1 on the priority list when Trumbull took the field for the season opener against Darien Tuesday afternoon on the THS grass field.

“We’re never going to match the team we had when we had Bond here,” junior captain Justin Lynch said. “But we definitely want to get back into what we feel Trumbull soccer can do. We want to get back to that high standard we always set for ourselves.”

Trumbull took the first step in that direction with a gritty 1-0 victory over a young but solid Darien team, using a second-half goal by senior forward Chris Anderson and a solid effort from the midfield and defense to post the win.

The Eagles got off to a slow start, but kicked in into gear around the 15th minute to dominate the rest of the first half.

Senior Josh Armine, beginning his first season as the starting goalkeeper, sealed the victory with a superb stop on Darien’s Chris Chiamulera on a nice pass across the goal mouth with 19 minutes left.

“It was a good effort,” a satisfied Gangemi said. “It was good work. We will not be out-worked. That’s my motto this year. We’re going to be fit. We’re going to be strong, and we’re going to play well defensively.”

Trumbull, coming off a 7-6-3 regular season and a first-round loss to Greenwich in the Class LL playoffs, isn’t  tall by any stretch of the imagination. Darien, a team with just three seniors, had a huge advantage in height. In a rugged conference like the FCIAC, where finesse is superceded by physicality, being small in stature could be a major disadvantage.

Trumbull is focused on not letting it be.

What the Eagles lack in height, they make up with quickness, good decision-making and solid play in the midfield behind a group comprised of Lynch, fellow senior-captain Alberto Aguillon, junior Danny Bartoli and versatile sophomore Kristian Michel.

Darien tried to use its size advantage, but behind the play of a defense comprised of senior captain Stephen Ciulla, senior Greg Murray, junior Matt Kapell and senior Tyler Monteiro, the Eagles wouldn’t allow it, cutting off long passes while never allowing the Darien forwards to make runs.

Amrine, the owner of a powerful leg, was solid and decisive in his first career varsity start in the goal and made five saves to post the shutout.

“We definitely lack size but we don’t lack speed and we don’t lack ability on the midfield or defense,” Lynch said.

“We knew what our strengths were and we knew they were going to try to play the ball directly over us. We knew what we needed to do defensively and we knew what we need to do going forward.”

Beating a team like Darien actually gave the Eagles a blueprint for the rest of the season, providing a good indication of the success they hope to enjoy.

“We’re definitely very happy to be able to come out and start the season right,” Lynch said. “They’re a big team and a strong team in the middle.

“They’re typical of many of the FCIAC teams we’re going to face this season. It’s good to get a physical game like that and start the season off good.”

Darien head coach Jon Bradley was impressed with Trumbull’s ability to control the game from a defensive standpoint.

“They’re very quick. They break well,” Bradley said. “We didn’t put too much pressure on them until the last 20 minutes. But they’re a good team.”

Bradley expects both programs to find themselves in the middle of a large pack of competitive teams.

“In the FCIAC, there are two very good teams, three very bad ones, and everyone else in the middle battling it out,” Bradley said. “It should be a very interesting season to say the least.”

The Eagles had a little trouble finishing on offense. Anderson, sophomore forward Eric Neil and senior Danny Hernandez had numerous chances during the contest as Trumbull out-shot Darien 17-10. It took until the 52nd minute for the Eagles to break through.

Bartoli made a great play in the left corner, beating a defender to the inside then dishing back to the middle of the field. Aguillon got of a nice shot that deflected off Darien goalkeeper Liam Rischmann and off the crossbar. The ball came right to the foot of Anderson in the right side and he tapped it back in for the only goal of the game.

Gangemi is counting on his offense to improve its production as the season wears on. With no clear-cut superstar or dominant scoring threat, the Eagles are simply not built to play from behind.

“We’ve got to start quick,” Gangemi said. “We cannot wait until the first 15 minutes to start playing hard. I don’t want to be a goal down and try to play catch-up. I want us to play from the first minute on.”

With good support off the bench from players like Hernandez, senior Brendan Dunn, who gives the Eagles some height on the wing, junior Tim Bean and senior Grant Amrine, the Eagles can go 15 or 16 deep and not lose anything on the field.

That, along with a sense of chemistry that is already readily apparent, should make the Eagles a team to contend with. Just like they were in 2011.

“We’re trying to get back to that,” Gangemi said. “Last year was an off year and we still won eight games and made the state tournament. This year we want to get above that, and hopefully beyond.”