By Dave Ruden
When Greenwich boys soccer coach Kurt Putnam decided to keep 30 players on his roster — including 22 seniors — it raised a few eyebrows.
Keeping everyone happy would seem to be problematic, and Putnam appeared to be setting himself up for internal issues.
“We had 140 players try out, and some of the seniors are three-year players in the program and had given up a lot,” Putnam said. “I felt they deserved a chance their final year, especially those that hadn’t, to be part of the varsity. I’m just honest with the players and the parents.”
Putnam has pulled off a nice quinella: winning on the field and internal contentment off of it.
At 8-0-1, the Cardinals are the last remaining team in the FCIAC without a loss. Though there is balance atop the standings, they have established themselves at this point as the conference favorite.
At the same time, Putnam said he has been able to get every one of his available players into five games, a nifty feat without compromising the product on the field.
“I think the parents understand this is an opportunity to be part of something,” said Putnam, referring to the group that potentially could have caused him the most headaches. “But ultimately, I’m going out there to win championships.”
Greenwich has not only been defeating quality opponents, but have done so in impressive fashion, including a 5-0 win over Wilton and, most notably, last Thursday’s 6-0 win over a Fairfield Warde team that is 5-2-3.
“In all my years of coaching that was the most destructive dismantling of a team,” Putnam said. “We scored six goals in 29 minutes, and Warde is a good program. We just decided to really play in the first half.”
Despite the hot start, Putnam said the Cardinals are still searching for the level of consistency he desires.
“We haven’t played great to be honest,” Putnam said. “If they put together a complete game I think we will be difficult to beat. I think there is still more to come.”
A Team-Building Loss For Staples
One score this fall prompted headlines observers had to consider Dewey-beats-Truman territory: Warren Harding 3, Staples 2.
The Wreckers have one of the most storied programs — in any sport — in the state. Harding, despite a previous win over Westhill, does not have much of a soccer tradition, though it did defeat Staples in 1997.
Would this be a black eye the Wreckers might carry with them the rest of the season, if not an indication that what some considered a rebuilding season after heavy graduation losses could require extra tractors?
Staples tied Ridgefield the following game, and have since run off six straight wins to improve to 8-1-1 and elevate itself into a title contender.
“The best thing that could have happened to us was losing to Harding,” Staples coach Dan Woog said. “People around the league sort of sat up. And I still get coaches before a game asking what happened with Harding. But at the beginning of the season Harding was playing well. And our kids were looking past them. To our kids’ credit, they reassessed things pretty quickly. They could have gone one or two ways, and they’ve learned from it.”
The Wreckers have no superstars, which is a positive. They have received a boost from co-captain Jack Scott, who returned from a concussion last week and, after being moved from midfield to forward, scored a goal against Trinity Catholic and had a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over Norwalk.
“He’s a workhorse and an emotional leader on the field,” Woog said. “We have fed off of his energy.”
This is Woog’s 11th season as the Wreckers’ head coach, and one observation is really the secret to the team’s success.
“This is the most coachable group I’ve ever had,” Woog said. “They understand that what happens in training translates onto the field. They are really focused.”