Costa taking advantage of opportunity

Paul Costa has only been playing varsity soccer for six games, so he hasn’t had many opportunities to score goals. As a starting defender, that’s not even part of his job description.

But with time running down in Trumbull High’s game against undefeated Fairfield Ludlowe, Costa just happened to find himself in the perfect location to play the role of hero.

His first varsity goal ended up being a big one, possibly the type of momentum-changer that turns Trumbull’s season around.

Costa knocked in a rebound of a header by senior captain Justin Lynch off a direct kick by fellow senior captain Dan Bartoli with 2:20 left in the second half, allowing the Eagles to pull out a 2-2 tie against undefeated Fairfield Warde in a physical affair in Trumbull on Sept. 27.

Ludlowe (6-0-1) appeared to be on its way to its seventh win in seven games, taking a 2-1 lead with 11 minutes left. But Trumbull never stopped fighting and produced its most consistent offensive pressure over the final five minutes.

A foul on Ludlowe’s Mike McArdle gave the Eagles a direct kick from 25 yards out. Lynch almost scored himself, flicking a header that Ludlowe goalie Fred Meagher (five saves) punched off the crossbar. But the ball went right to the feet of Costa on the right side with the Eagles pushing all 10 players into the offensive side of the field.

The rest was easy.

“At first the ball was going far post and Justin put in a fantastic header that the keeper saved off the crossbar. I was just there to tap it in,” Costa said. “I have to give all the credit to Lynch on that header.”

Trumbull (1-4-1), which used its physical play to knock the Falcons off their game, is hoping this will be the start of a more successful run.

“This could be a turnaround point,” head coach Sebastian Gangemi said. “We gave up some games that were really close, so we needed this boost. They’re a first-place team. They really haven’t given up many goals. So we needed this. There’s no substitute for success.”

Ludlowe had only allowed one goal over its first six games. Costa’s goal was the first non-penalty kick the Falcons allowed this season. Warde scored on a penalty kick during a 3-1 Ludlowe win last week and Russo scored on another to put the Eagles up 1-0 with 7:18 left in the first half.

To score the equalizer against a team that doesn’t break easily says something about Trumbull’s grit and determination.

“When you’re on the type of streak we were on and you play against a really good team like Ludlowe and you tie against them, I think it’s a pretty good result,” Costa said. “I’m really proud of my team. We stayed strong.”

Ludlowe coach Kevin O’Hara gave credit where credit was due.

“It’s all them. My hat’s off to Trumbull,” O’Hara said. “They were very physical with us and we had to change our tactics and started to bang with them. They took us out of our possession game that we like to play.”

Neither team had many good scoring chances in the first half. Trumbull had five shots going into the break and Ludlowe had just four. But the Eagles were given a golden opportunity when sophomore Matt Restrepo was taken down inside the box on a hard foul by Richie Bellucci.

Russo scored easily on the ensuing penalty kick. Meagher made the first move, diving to the right. Russo went left and buried it, giving Trumbull a 1-0 lead that helped the Eagles focus on their game plan of being physical with the Falcons.

“That really gave us a big boost of moral,” Gangemi said. “It helped us to know we could score against them.”

Ludlowe tied it 1-1 with 29:42 left in the second half, as senior Matt Doyle headed a throw-in from the right sideline by defender Alec Georgiadis from the near post to the back side of the net.

Trumbull had a couple of great chances over the next few minutes, but Ludlowe defender Lorin Tobey was there to make a couple of solid denials.

Ludlowe scored again with 11:18 left on the same exact play. This time, Doyle didn’t score on the throw-in by Georgiadis. But his header went to McArdle and he knocked it past goalkeeper Dan Isaac (five saves) for the go-ahead goal.

“Both their goals came on set pieces,” Gangemi said. “That’s something we have to work on.”