NEW BRITAIN - The Goodwin Tech and Innovation boys soccer teams have the blueprint laid down for a lasting rivalry. The two schools have played each other annually since the Ravens started their own soccer program, and the schools themselves are separated by just 0.6 miles, right across the street from each other.
But after the Ravens’ 3-1 win over the Gladiators on Monday, Innovation’s fourth victory over Goodwin Tech in the last five meetings, it became clear that the separation within the rivalry is of a greater distance than the physical proximity of the two programs.
“We’re limited with the amount of kids that actually play soccer, so we just try to stay competitive with them,” Gladiators head coach Ron Murray said. “We’d like to call it a rivalry, but for right now, we’re still building on our game. I’m happy right now saying that it’s competitive.”
Recent games have proven competitive, with the last four being decided by two goals or less, and Goodwin Tech picked up a narrow 3-2 victory at home back on Oct. 8. Murray still would like to see his program gain some more stability before tossing the “rivalry” card around, but things are headed in the right direction for a matchup that has rivalry potential written all over it.
“You’d like it to be a rivalry,” Murray said. “It’s always good for the game itself. They’re looking at each other like it’s a big game, sort of like playing New Britain High.”
On the other side, Innovation always sees the annual matchup as a big game. Having played each other three times in the span of a month (the two teams played a scrimmage two days before the 2020 season began), the familiarity has only grown, and with it, the desire to beat each other and claim city bragging rights.
“I love playing against them,” Ravens junior Waseem Alsafari said after scoring two goals in Monday’s win. “They’re right down the street and it’s becoming a rivalry.”
Aside from consistently competitive matches, which are already beginning to form, one of the other key ingredients for a rivalry is spectator interest, and having the atmosphere in the stands match the tone on the field. The chirping and intense play of a rivalry was certainly apparent in Monday’s game, but with Innovation currently allowing no fans at its home games due to covid-19, the buzz was absent. That’s a problem every school in the state is facing this season, but whenever things return to normal, both teams would like to see the rivalry take the next step with more fans taking the trip across Slater Road to be a part of a simmering rivalry that has aspirations of being great.
“I don’t think it’s gotten to that point just yet, but it may start,” Murray said. “They beat us in the scrimmage game and we wound up winning our first game of the season against them. We’ve seen them three times and I think when you’re playing each other that many times, it can become that kind of rivalry when kids start talking and taking our students over here and they bring their students over to us. It’s a close ride, or a walk, and that’s what would make it more of a rivalry, just the ability to have lots of fans cheering on each side.”
For now, the two programs can settle for frequent matchups, a short trip and a fierce battle on the field. Boxes are beginning to be checked on the rivalry checklist, and both teams hope that in the coming years, the Battle for New Britain, the Slater Road Rivalry or whatever label you want to put on it continues to gain luster.
“I look forward to these games and I know the kids do,” Innovation head coach Bryan De La Cruz said. “They play hard every time. They keep us on our toes.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org