Boys soccer: Gaels fighting injuries, SCC rivals

When a Fairfield Prep player went down with an injury and exited Saturday morning’s game at Shelton High, Shelton coach Isaac Montalvo could surely empathize. When one of his players was banged up following a collision off a corner kick, he was holding his breath.

“We competed. Right now, to be honest, my team is like a hospital. I have so many injuries. Players who are out one to three weeks. That hurts a team,” Montalvo said following Shelton’s 3-1 loss to Southern Connecticut Conference rival Prep.

He  proceeded to rattle off the names of a half dozen sidelined team members, plus Zachary Prindle, who is playing with an injury.

“I’m not concerned about wins and losses. It’s more about keeping everybody healthy,” said Montalvo, who had to be relieved when Alexander Coleman, the lone Shelton goal-scorer on Saturday, hobbled off the field under his own power then returned to the game several minutes later.

Nicholas Turco left after an apparent collision in the second half, perhaps joining Erik Lorent, Zachary Miller, Jacob Bialek, Vincent Mallozzi and Connor Gil on the injured list.

“We’ve got to keep working hard. We’re going to keep training,” Montalvo said.

Shelton, after getting off to a great start, dropped its third consecutive match to fall to 5-3.

Prep, meanwhile, continues to cruise, pumping up to 8-0 — outscoring teams 33-5 along the way. The Gaels were slated to visit Amity of Woodbridge on Monday, in a rematch with a team it beat 2-0 in the season opener.

Montalvo liked his team’s effort, especially under the circumstances and level of the competition.

“I’m very pleased. We played a beautiful first half,” he said, adding that his team seemed to be undone by Prep’s third goal of the afternoon.

Shelton received strong defensive play from Anthony Russo, Jack Neary, Deven Papadimitriou, Turco and Prindle, who has done well after dropping back from midfield to the back line because of injuries.

Montalvo is happy about how players have stepped up, including Coleman and Jonathan Dias, who forfeited his body with a great play and fall to the turf, saving a ball along the sideline near the middle of the field.

Things were back and forth early on in the matchup before Prep seized second-half control.

After Prep’s Jose Maria Garcia-Mina scored the first of his two goals, 11:20 into the contest, the Gaels pressured.

Stylianos Mysirlidis sent a free kick into the 18-yard box, where Prindle redirected the ball with a header but Prep goalkeeper Ryan Cowles was up to the task.

Shelton tied the score when Coleman’s blast from 25 yards out deflected off the foot of a tightly-marking defender and sailed over Cowles’ head with 6:49 to go before the half.

It was a brand new game and the Gaels had confidence but short-lived momentum.

Prep answered when Lucas Ojea Quintana capitalized off a corner kick just 2:02 after Coleman’s tying tally.

It was 2-1 Prep at halftime.

“We didn’t expect that right away,” Montalvo said. “We’re going to keep fighting. We are not giving up,” Montalvo said.

The Jesuits added to the lead just 2:18 into the second half, though it could have been more for the visitors if not for the sparking efforts of Shelton goalkeeper Isaac Garcia, who  made a couple of leaping saves, one that he touched just over the crossbar.
Garcia made four stops and his counterpart had five denials.

Montalvo said the Gaels dropped players back to clog the midfield from the center out to each wing in an effort to eliminate Prep’s propensity to take the ball wide and set up from the outside. Prep generated all three corner kicks in the game.

“I think we need to be more organized defending long balls, especially crosses,” Montalvo said. “We’re going to keep fighting. We are not giving up.”