Short-handed Falcons tie Trumbull

The Fairfield Ludlowe boys soccer team couldn’t have found itself in a trickier situation heading its game against Trumbull High on Sept. 27.
The Falcons were coming off an emotional victory against town-rival Fairfield Warde four days before and had a couple of huge FCIAC showdowns against Danbury and Norwalk on the horizon. With just one win to its credit, Trumbull wasn’t really on Ludlowe’s radar screen.
Ludlowe was also missing two starters and one bench player due to injuries and illness, including skillful center midfielder Tulio Almedia and junior Mason Jennings, a powerful offensive player, who would have helped the Falcons deal with Trumbull’s physical nature.
There was also the issue of playing on Trumbull’s natural grass field, a surface Ludlowe isn’t overly familiar with.
Despite all of that, the Falcons were still able to keep their unbeaten record intact, hanging on for a 2-2 tie at Trumbull High School.
Ludlowe (6-0-1) clinched a spot in the state tournament with the draw, the earliest it has ever accomplished that feat.
“We’re not very upset about being 6-0-1 after seven games,” Ludlowe head coach Kevin O’Hara said. “This is never an easy place to win. So to come up here to Trumbull and get a tie after being down 1-0 at halftime, we’ll take it.”
Ludlowe appeared to be on its way to its seventh win in seven games after taking a 2-1 lead with 11 minutes left on goals by Matt Doyle and Mike McArdle, but Trumbull sophomore defender Paul Costa knocked in a rebound of a header by Justin Lynch off a direct kick from 25 yards out by Dan Bartoli with 2:20 left to tie it. It was the first career goal for Costa. Trumbull (1-4-1) dictated the action, turning the match into something closer to a football game. American football, that is.
“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,” O’Hara said. “They were up for us. And a credit to them, they kept pressing. Every time we had a 50/50 ball, they were coming in hard. They won the majority of the 50/50 balls today.”
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 off his feet inside the box on a foul near the goal line by Richie Bellucci.
Trumbull senior Dan Russo scored easily on the ensuing penalty kick. Ludlowe keeper Fred Meagher (five saves) 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.
It was the second penalty kick goal allowed by Ludlowe this season. The Mustangs also scored on a PK late in Ludlowe’s 3-1 win. The Falcons have allowed just one non-penalty kick goal and are outscoring their opponents 18-3 this season.
“That really gave us a big boost of morale,” Trumbull coach Sebastian 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 Doyle headed a throw-in from the right sideline by defender Alec Georgiadis from the near post to the back side of the net. The ball actually bounced once before Trumbull goalie Dan Isaac (five saves) could corral it.
Trumbull had a couple of great chances over the next few minutes, but Ludlowe senior 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 Isaac for the go-ahead goal.
Trumbull’s tying goal actually followed a bit of bad luck for the Falcons.
McArdle had the ball on his feet and was heading up field out of the defensive zone when he was called for making contact with a Trumbull forward.
The Eagles were awarded a direct kick and took advantage of it.
“It was a tough call, but that happens,” O’Hara said. “It was one guy in then two guy in then three guy in then my guy. The third time was the guy who got hit. It was a foul on my guy, but I did think there was one or two or three before that. But that goes with the territory.”
Meagher still almost saved the game. Lynch, Trumbull’s center midfielder, got a great shot on goal, flicking a header off the direct kick that appeared headed for the far post. Meagher made a great save, jumping up to punch it away. But the ball knocked off the crossbar and out to Costa, who easily tapped it into the vacated right side of the net.
“The keeper made a great save. That was a fantastic shot,” Gangemi said. “But our guy was in the right place at the right time. It was a great game.”

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