Boys soccer: Trumbull battles back to tie Central

If there was ever such thing as a rewarding and satisfying, yet all the while unfulfilling draw, it took place Monday afternoon at Trumbull High School, where the Eagles’ boys soccer team fought back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the Bridgeport Central Hilltoppers 2-2. Trumbull stands at 5-3-3, and Central has a record of 4-5-2.

“I think we should have won this game but, you know what? We came back from 2-0 down,” Trumbull head coach Sebastian Gangemi said. “The way we played, we could have finished more, but I’m pleased. I’m pleased with the way we went at them.”

The Eagles received second-half goals from Paul Costa and Arin Lara, and seven saves in the game from goalkeeper Jonathan Campbell. Central’s Akeem Mitchell and Ronaldo Beckett cashed in on defensive mistakes by the Eagles for a 2-0 lead before halftime, then Trumbull flipped the switch for a second-half rally.

This was a big tie for the Eagles considering it gave the team enough points to ensure a berth in the state playoffs, and could end up going a long way in helping the team qualify for the FCIAC tournament. It’s just that the game was so close to being a win for the Eagles, who mustered 27 shots toward the goal, compared to 15 for Central. Hilltopper goalkeeper Andres Palacio made 9 saves.

Gangemi said the Eagles allowed the visitors to play their slower-paced game in the first half. Trumbull moved without the ball and used its speed to produce a better team effort in the final 40 minutes.

The Eagles pounced on the Hilltoppers immediately after halftime. They generated a corner kick only 1:30 into the half, then started to pile up quality scoring chances.

Thang Dao passed to Jeremiah Caraballo for chance that was denied, Costa headed the ball on a second-opportunity following a corner kick, but couldn’t get enough on the ball because of Central’s heavy defensive pressure.

With 28:57 to play, Costa got his team on the scoreboard with a shot just under the crossbar following a corner kick.

Just a few minutes later, Elvis Rodriguez dribbled deep in Central’s end of the field on the right side. From there he crossed to Lara, who booted the ball over the top. Lara got a second chance on a nice setup from Chris Lancia, and cashed in to tie the score with a low shot into the corner to the right of Palacio, with 21:12 to play.

The opportunities kept coming. Lancia moved in and blasted the ball from just outside the 18-yard box, but it sailed high. Matthew Restrepo dribbled to the goal line to the left of the goal, made a cut toward the middle and centered the ball, which got deflected and, eventually, stopped by Palacio.

“It was frustrating,” Restrepo said of settling for the draw. “We spread the field. We kept getting through balls and getting through to the goal.”

Lancia and T.J. Coughlin worked a nice give-and-go to create a scoring opportunity, and Lara again had a clear look, but missed high.

“It’s all part of the game. It’s part of growing up,” Gangemi said of his players missing chances.

Lara was pleased to get the game-tying goal after not converting on a good chance earlier. He attributed Trumbull’s second-half turnaround to his squad’s overall team play.

“We played as a family. Because of that, we played better,” Lara said.

Costa and Daniel Russo both made nice defensive plays to break up chances for the Hilltoppers. Campbell benefited from his defense blocking several in-close chances, and also came up with some stellar saves, including a diving grab on a long-range free kick opportunity for the Hilltoppers.

Up next for the Eagles is a visit to Trinity Catholic in Stamford on Wednesday, Oct. 14, beginning at 4 p.m.