Boys’ Soccer Team Hands Weston First Defeat
According to the schedule, Newtown High School’s boys’ soccer team had two of its tougher tests just after the calendar turned to October. Based on the results, a pair of 1-0 wins over tough South-West Conference teams Joel Barlow of Redding on October 1 and Weston on October 5, the Nighthawks passed with flying colors.
Coach Charley Amblo, however, is always testing and assessing his squad and considers the two most recent games, an October 9 visit to Immaculate of Danbury and a scheduled Friday, October 12 contest with visiting Bunnell of Stratford at Blue & Gold Stadium at 6 pm, as being every bit as important as those two aforementioned,more challenging on-paper matchups. He wants to see how far his team has come along, and this is a key juncture in the season schedule for his evaluation process.
“This is a big week for us regardless of opponent,” Amblo said.
Immaculate, which Newtown defeated 2-0 to improve to 5-4-2 overall, came into the game with a record of 5-5, and Bunnell is winless. Barlow had just one loss, and Weston had none before Newtown defeated each of them, but Amblo is more concerned with what the Nighthawks are learning and doing on their end.
The coach has put a percentage label on his team’s play relative to what he believes it is capable of throughout the fall. It was in the middle 30s a couple weeks ago and reached 56 percent after the Weston game. Why not 55 percent? Because his team is doing a little better than midway between 50 and 60 percent, Amblo explained
So much for passing with flying colors, but the coach is, in fact, pleased with his team’s recent performances and outcomes.
Amblo expected his team to be only a certain percentage of the way to 100 at different points in the campaign based on implementation of new approach to the game on offense and defense alike.
“It’s not prediction. I’ve done this 39 years,” Amblo, who previously coached and played at a variety of levels in the states and overseas, said of his team capability forecasts.
“I’m very specific,” said Amblo, adding that he is within three percent in either direction of being accurate on his assessment.
“I think we’re accelerating the rate a little bit,” said Amblo, adding that it has been a process to get the players comfortable with a short pass, quick ball movement style with possession and an understanding of where to be and what to do when the other team has the ball.
“Everything we’re teaching and learning is building on itself,” he said.
Newtown, prior to defeating Barlow, had lost two straight games, but it’s not all about wins and losses for Amblo, who emphasizes the importance of players learning to play the game what he believes is the right way.
“It’s not a turnaround. It’s a planned progression,” he said of the recent outcomes against tough teams.
Amblo estimates that both Barlow and Weston had a two-to-one edge in ball possession, but some of that was by design, as the Nighthawks used patience to allow their foes to move the ball around their defensive half of the field while the Hawks positioned themselves to be ready to take the ball away at the right time.
“It’s what you do with your possession that is the key,” Amblo notes.
That’s all part of Amblo’s grading process. Against Weston, the coach said, The Hawks stayed the course and played an excellent game, according to plan, leading to its goal. Lindi Limani was assisted by Jalen Minter, around the 60th minute.
A hungry-for-the-equalizer Weston squad started to apply more pressure, and the Nighthawks got a bit off their game plan as a result of that pressure, leaving it to goalkeeper Cam Trivers to come up with a handful of game-saving plays late in regulation.
“They really got fired up to get their goal back. They really were forcing our hand, and Cam came up with some outstanding stops on some outstanding attacks by Weston,” Amblo said.
Any way you slice it, this was a big win. Weston was 8-0 before Amblo’s lineup stymied the Trojans.
Not a bad encore to handing a Barlow team that had lost only to Weston its second defeat. But as pleased as Amblo was with another win over a formidable foe, the week featured a missed opportunity when a scheduled October 2 game against New Fairfield got rained out. Amblo was interested to see how his team would play on consecutive days and coming off a big victory.
The coach doesn’t believe beating Barlow and Weston makes his team more of a serious SWC title candidate than other teams in the conference.
“I think these wins show everybody in the conference it’s open to everybody,” Amblo said.
Including Newtown, of course.
The coach points to the standings that show some parity in the conference. Newtown still has what appear to be tough tilts with Brookfield and Joel Barlow in a rematch remaining on the schedule. But contests with Kolbe Cathedral of Bridgeport and New Fairfield squads that have combined for just three wins in SWC play are just as important to Amblo as he gauges the development of his players.
The Nighthawks, in their win over host Immaculate, raised their coach-assessment to 61 percent.
“Due to key upperclassman injuries and needed rest, we employed two tenth graders and a ninth grader in the back positions. Overall, they did well, as there were obvious moments of learning throughout the match. Much experience gained. Also, we were trying out a new formation, with multiple players in differing positions from their normal comfort zones,” Amblo said.
Junior varsity call-up, tenth grader Chase Yeaton and ninth grader Jake Gonski were steadily effective, along with sophomores Tyler Grosso and Ryan Ruddy in the back, the coach said.
“We were using some new playing patterns and concepts recently presented in training sessions, although not with a high level of aptitude, as of yet,” Amblo added.
Trivers made about a dozen saves, half of which were goal-saving stops, said Amblo, adding that Thomas Briscoe and Owen Baillargeon were their usual anchoring presence.
Goals by Minter, in the 27th minute, assisted by Bryce Benson, and Limani, in the 64th minute, assisted by Jack Petersen, kept some of the mounting pressure of Immaculate at bay, the coach said.
The Nighthawks look to not only win, but raise their percentage against Bunnell and going forward.
Although the players on the field want more than anything to win every time they lace up their cleats, Amblo acknowledges, they’re buying into the focus on day-to-day improvement and the coach’s percentage thing.
“The kids are getting into it, he said.
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