MERIDEN – If the Berlin boys soccer team were to put together a highlight reel for the 2020 season, head coach Sal Parafati might tell you that Thursday’s game against Platt would be the only content needed.
Thursday showed the Redcoats at their worst, but also saw the team play to its full potential, all in a span of 80 minutes. The young Berlin squad surrendered a goal just 90 seconds into the first half before allowing the two-win Panthers to build a 3-0 lead over the first 30 minutes of play. Then, the Redcoats began to mount their comeback, scoring late in the first half, two minutes into the second half and again with less than two minutes left in the game to secure a 3-3 draw.
Parafati’s postgame speech to the team included a declaration that if Berlin could play at the level it showed in the second half consistently, its 1-7-3 record would look a lot different.
“Our record may not reflect the way we’ve been playing,” Parafati said. “I think we’ve been playing pretty well. Our issue is needing to play with the intensity we saw in the second half [on Thursday], we need to see that intensity for a full 80 minutes.”
There have already been plenty of close games for the Redcoats this season, including a 2-1 loss to Newington in the season opener and a pair of draws against Rocky Hill. Thursday’s comeback was just the latest piece of evidence that Berlin has a winning team in its DNA, so long as it finds a way to tap into it for a full game.
For the Redcoats, a team that is trying to rebuild after a two-win season that saw seven seniors graduate, the shortened 2020 campaign has removed further opportunities to gain experience. With limited practice before the season and just two games per week, a younger team like Berlin would certainly have benefited from a full season with maximum opportunities to get its younger contributors as much playing time as possible. But in an unprecedented season, that wasn’t a possibility. Still, Thursday’s game showed the team everything it needed to see in terms of where it needs to improve and what it’s capable of.
“We have a pretty good foundation, because most of our team is juniors now,” junior Marco Marino said after scoring the dramatic game-tying goal on Thursday. “But it’s harder to build momentum. We’re on the verge of being great and scoring more goals. We’re right on the edge of becoming a great team.”
There has been plenty of frustration on the way to improvement, including the first half of Thursday’s match, but Parafati’s speech to the team after the final whistle was one of optimism, reminding his group that while the comeback didn’t turn into a win, it showed a level of play that far exceeds the look of a one-win team that lost a load of senior leadership.
“The whole season has been challenging because of the situation with covid and losing all of those seniors, but this group of seniors has been fantastic,” Parafati said. “They’ve stepped up. We’ve been unfortunate with some injuries, but they’ve battled.”
Parafati would have liked more chances to get his key sophomores and juniors game experience, but a global pandemic thwarted that opportunity. It’s not an ideal situation for a team looking to rebuild and groom its young talent, but at this point, given the unprecedented circumstances, the Redcoats are just happy to be getting through the season, which will conclude with the CCC playoffs next week.
“The important thing is that we got through the season, and it was really important we got a chance to play,” Parafati said. “In July and August, we weren’t sure this would happen, so the fact that we got to play this long is a plus.”