NEW BRITAIN - Dane Stephensâ€™ free kick ricocheted off the top of the crossbar and found a waiting Michael Torres, who squared up and put the ball into the back of the net less than five minutes into the match.
The rout was on from there.
Led by a dominant first half, Plainville beat MLK (Hartford) 7-1 Saturday afternoon in the second round of the Nutmeg State Gamesâ€™ 18 & Under Boys Soccer Tournament.
Plainville scored five times in the first half and twice more after halftime. Through two games, Plainville has scored 11 times, with just the one goal against.
The team will now go for gold Sunday afternoon against SoccerViza (Norwalk).
â€śToday and last night, the teamâ€™s finally coming together,â€ť head coach Ezio Capozzi said. â€śWe donâ€™t have any superstars, but theyâ€™re jelling as a team. As long they stay together as a team, itâ€™ll go a long way.â€ť
They played as a team Saturday.
Five different Plainville players recorded a goal, with Torres and Stephens playing key roles. Torres scored twice (both in the first half), while Stephens scored once and was responsible for two others - Torresâ€™ first goal and the teamâ€™s final one of the afternoon off another free kick.
â€śWe were just moving the ball and not dribbling, which weâ€™re used to,â€ť Torres said. â€śMy coaches told us these guys are bigger than us, so we have to move the ball and move off the ball and thatâ€™s what we did and thatâ€™s how we got so many open shots.â€ť
Plainville outshot MLK 15-5 despite the size disadvantage. A big part of that was the teamâ€™s constant communication throughout the match as well as a series of quick passes to move the ball upfield.
â€śWe were just talking more and doing a lot of runs,â€ť Stephens said. â€śIt means you donâ€™t have to score every game. You can rely on teammates.â€ť
Plainville also got plenty of help from its defense. Every time MLK drove the ball onto Plainvilleâ€™s side of the pitch, the defense forced its opponent back, leading Plainville to play a majority of the game on the opposing end.
It led to an easy day for the goalkeeper, who had to make four saves rather effortlessly.
â€śOur defense stepped up big,â€ť Torres said. â€śOur two center-backs, Mark Gniadek and Parker Bernier, stepped up. Theyâ€™ve had a real good tournament and hopefully we can do the same thing in the finals.
â€śOur wing-backs, shutting down every through ball they were sending and not letting any shots off. Not many shots reached the goalie.â€ť
It has been a much different tournament for Plainville than it was at the Nutmeg Games a year ago when it went 2-1 before falling in the bronze medal game 3-0 to come away with a disappointing fourth place.
Now, the team will look to win the bracket against a team in SoccerViza that, like it, has only allowed one goal to an opponent in the tournament.
But Plainville is more than ready for the challenge.
â€śWe got a great effort today,â€ť Capozzi said. â€śI canâ€™t wait for [the final].â€ť
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach