class ll boys soccer Hatters survive and advance
DANBURY — It went from very comfortable to anything but for the Danbury boys soccer team in a short span during its Class LL opener Tuesday afternoon.
With a two-goal lead gone and overtime on the horizon, the Hatters dug deep to avoid an upset against a FCIAC squad they had little trouble with during the regular season.
Carlos Rodriguez Rivera fired home with 2:05 left, sending Danbury to the second round with a 3-2 win over a strong Vikings squad. The thrilling match had several twists before the senior popped up, received a pass from the wing and scored.
No. 6 Danbury (11-1-5) will host Naugatuck in the second round on Thursday.
“It was a nice buildup, nice play and nice goal,” Hatters coach Antony Howard said. “I’m happy for Carlos; he’s been struggling a little bit with injuries and has not been 100 percent. I’m glad he could pinch in and get a goal.”
That came after a wild finish that included chances at both ends. Westhill — which lost 5-1 to Danbury during the regular season — trailed 2-0 before staging a furious comeback. Dylan Sparks — who scored seven minutes into the second half — scored on a long shot to tie the game with 16 minutes remaining.
“We just made a choice to work together,” Westhill coach Joe Andrews said. “That really was it, I think we needed to light a fire. It helped that we scored early and it gave them a lot of confidence; they started to believe after that.”
Westhill appeared set to complete the upset with several opportunities from set pieces before the Hatters responded. Vikings goalie Nate Aybar made a stop with seven minutes left to keep it tied.
“I would say it was very chaotic because for the majority of the first half we had possession and dominated,” said Danbury senior defender Alex Pane. “We just fell apart; it was stressful to have a two-goal lead and mess it up like that for a while.”
Danbury scored at the best possible moment with one of the goals of the postseason as junior Victor Oliveira hit a rocket from outside the box with just three seconds left in the first half to give the Hatters a 2-0 lead.
Lucas Oliveira finished off a counter attack move to score with 12 minutes left in the first half for the game’s first goal.
“I thought we created some chances,” Hatters coach Antony Howard said. “We spring-boarded on from the FCIAC final where we were making a lot happen going forward; at this stage of the game a tie is no good so we’re trying to push numbers forward.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Dylan Sparks, Westhill: Was involved in most of what the Vikings earned in the attacking third, scoring twice to keep his team alive.
“At first it hurt all of us and we were beat up about it,” said Pane of the Hatters losing the FCIAC final to Trumbull in overtime last Thursday. “But the next day we realized we have another tournament to go; we have to keep going and make up for that.”
“I felt like we competed with them,” Andrews said. “I feel like we’re just as good as them and showed that today.”
DANBURY 3, WESTHILL 2
DANBURY 2 1 — 3
WESTHILL0 2 — 2
Goals: W—Dylan Sparks 2; D—Carlos Rodriguez, Lucas Oliveira, Victor Oliveira. Goalies: W—Nate Aybar (10 saves); D—Matt Silva (7 saves). Records: Westhill 7-7-3, Danbury 11-1-5.