Eagles bring A-game, stop Wreckers

When Sebastian Gangemi watches his team play as well as it did on Oct. 18, against perennial FCIAC powerhouse Staples, it’s easy to see how the veteran head coach could be feeling frustrated.

The Trumbull boys soccer team has definitely looked better than its record might indicate.

“There’s no reason why we should be 5-7-2 right now,” Gangemi said. “But it is what it is.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, there is still some season left to make things right. Trumbull took another step toward respectability against the Wreckers, putting together its best effort of the season during a convincing 4-1 victory on the turf at McDougall Field.

Trumbull totally dominated the second half, scoring three unanswered goals to break a 1-1 tie. Junior forward T.J. Coughlin scored the go-ahead goal, his first of the season, off a hard-working assist by senior captain Justin Lynch to put the Eagles up 2-1 in the 48th minute.

Junior defender Jeremiah Caraballo made it 3-1 with 18:15 left, heading in a corner kick by midfielder Elvis Rodriguez and Lynch sealed the victory with 14:24 remaining, finishing a text-book give-and-go with sophomore Matt Restrepo.

Trumbull outshot Staples, 16-10, and finished with a 7-2 edge in corner kicks. The Eagles converted two of those set pieces into goals.

The loss could be devastating for Staples, which entered the game tied for ninth in the FCIAC standings with Stamford.

“Today, I think we really came to play,” Gangemi said. “We had some good chances in the first half and then we really took control of the game in the second. We had all the chances and didn’t give up anything.”

It took almost the entire season, but Trumbull is finally playing up to its potential. The win against Staples (6-5-2) was the third straight for Trumbull, which earned a berth to the state tournament with a 2-1 victory over Wilton on Monday.

“This was a big win for us,” Gangemi said. “In the past we’ve had good results against Staples because we play a physical game. We tried to be down their throats the whole time. That’s exactly what we did. They were a little banged up and we matched up well with them. We took more chances than they did and took advantage of that.”

Trumbull applied great pressure in the first half, getting the game’s opening goal from sophomore defensive midfielder Thang Dao in the 10th minute.

The goal came off another corner kick by Rodriguez. Caraballo got a head on it in the box and the ball squirted out to Dao, who ripped it past Staples goalie Ziggy Hallgarten for a 1-0 lead.

Trumbull could have had a bigger lead at that point if not for the play of Hallgarten, who made six saves in the first half.

“That goalkeeper made some outstanding saves,” Gangemi said. “We could have been up 3-0 if it wasn’t for him.”

Staples tied it 1-1 with 22:27 left in the first half on a defensive breakdown by the Eagles. Spencer Daniels started the play with a direct kick near midfield. Gabe Pensak got the ball on his feet on the right side and crossed it to the left. No one was there to cover Nate Argosh and he tapped it past Trumbull goalie Dan Isaac (three saves) to make it 1-1.

“Those are the kinds of mistakes we’ve been making this year,” Gangemi said. “Sometimes we just have a letdown.”

But Trumbull made up for it after halftime, scoring three goals in 16 minutes. The Eagles would have had a fourth goal early in the fifth minute of the second, as Matt Curtis converted a rebound on a save by Hallgarten, but the officials ruled Trumbull was offside before the initial shot.

“Three goals, one after the other, was still pretty impressive,” Gangemi said. “We really came to play today.”