NEW BRITAIN - The Innovation boys soccer brought an already abnormal season to an abnormal end on Monday afternoon.
The Ravens, having been forced to quarantine due to covid precautions and miss the CRAL postseason last week, scheduled one final “regular season” game against Aerospace, which also missed the playoffs due to quarantine.
“We had a couple grades get quarantined, so we just decided to have a game last-minute and get one more game in because they missed the tournament,” Innovation head coach Bryan De La Cruz said.
The season finale brought more challenges to a season already full of them as the Ravens were forced to field just 10 players and no bench in what was a 6-0 loss to a Jets team that finished the year with an undefeated 5-0-1 record.
“I thought we’d have more guys, but some parents said they didn’t want their kids to play, so we had to go deep in the bench,” De La Cruz said. “It was a tough game, but it was a good learning experience for them.”
Aerospace gave Innovation a tough time from the start, owning possession early in the first half and never relenting.
The Jets allowed just one shot the entire game and began their own scoring attack almost immediately when Mahesh Persaud found an opening when he drove up the right side and drew goalkeeper Arnez Falcon out of the net. After Falcon tried to slide in and knock the ball away, Persaud sent a shot toward the open net before it was deflected out of bounds by a sliding Ravens defender to force a corner kick, which was headed just over the crossbar by Aerospace’s Amer Kuljancic.
The Jets continued their pressure later in the half when Kode Smith got off a strong shot from straight on, but once again lifted right above the crossbar. Persaud followed by weaving his way through a pair of Innovation defenders before being tackled just before getting a shot off, resulting in a penalty kick try that Persaud sent inside the right post to put Aerospace ahead 1-0.
Less than 20 seconds later, a Ravens turnover fell into the lap of Frandi Aguilar, who finessed his way through a pack of defenders before beating Falcon to the same spot where Persaud put home his corner kick, immediately extending the Jets lead to 2-0.
Aerospace never let up through the first half. A throw-in by Innovation was turned over late in the period and Aboubacar Barrie moved in a fired a shot past Falcon from straight on to make it 3-0 late in the first half.
The Jets added another just before the break when Smith put in an unassisted goal inside the near post to send Innovation into the half facing a 4-0 deficit, sending a dejected Innovation team to the break.
“Mentally, I think they were all over the place at that point,” De La Cruz said. “But it was good for them to play and get to see what all of them did on the field.”
Aerospace stayed on the attack in the opening minutes of the second half, and a turnaround shot from Matthew Haughton soared just over the reach of a leaping Falcon and just inside the crossbar to continue the rout and give the Jets a cozy 5-0 lead. Moments later, an Innovation goal kick turned into a turnover and a chance for Aguilar, who pounded a shot past a diving Falcon to make it 6-0.
The remaining 35 minutes turned into a game of keep-away for an Aerospace team that had already sealed the win, and had nothing left to do but seal another shutout and close their shortened season having not allowed a single goal all year.
It was both teams’ first game since Oct. 26, but it didn’t seem to bother the Jets.
“It was tough to quarantine and then come back, but it was good to get back out here,” De La Cruz said. “I think everyone was going to have a little rust.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com
AEROSPACE 6, INNOVATION 0
Halftime: Aerospace 4-0.
Goals: Mahesh Persaud (A), Frandi Aguilar (A) 2, Aboubacar Barrie (A), Kode Smith (A), Matthew Haughton (A).
Records: Aerospace 5-0-1, Innovation 6-2-1.