A year ago the Fairfield Prep soccer team's run to the SCC championship was fueled by a defense that only conceded six goals over the course of 22 games.
Wednesday afternoon Prep posted its third straight shutout, beating Shelton 2-0 at Alumni Field on the strength of a goal in each half from senior midfielder Davie Bruton.
"Our theory is to work from the defense forward," Jesuits coach Ryan Lyddy said.
Prep's stingy defense isn't based, necessarily, on a rugged back line or Steiner's ability to "stand on his head" in goal. Rather the Jesuits (2-0-1) load the midfield, interchange players and keep possession of the ball, limiting the chances by the opposition to a handful. When they lose the ball, they press to get it right back.
"They close up space very fast," Shelton coach Joe D'Auria said. "They force you to make the wrong decision right away. We knew when we received the ball we had to make the right decision, but we made the wrong decision on every ball."
Eighteen minutes into the game Bruton made the right decision when he heeded Lyddy's suggestion from the sideline to put a free kick from outside the right penalty area on goal. His left-footed shot, from an extremely narrow angle, curled inside the near post, beating Daniel Lisi to make it 1-0.
"Coach yelled at me to bend it in there," Bruton said. "I was thinking bend it as much as I can."
Bruton, who missed most of last season with a meniscus tear, was one of the few Prep players to remain in one position throughout the game as he sat in a central midfield spot.
His second goal came on the counterattack in the 54th minute when Dave Bigley threaded a throughball for him to run onto, which Bruton hit first-time at the top of the box and past an on-rushing Lisi.
Bigley, who had pushed into a forward role in the second half, began the game playing as an outside back. It was an example of Prep's roster flexibility, which also allowed 19 players to see action.
"That's what soccer is all about," Lyddy said. "You ask a player what position he plays and he tells you one. The answer Tim (Dee), my assistant and I would like to hear is, `I'll play anywhere.' That's what we're trying to do, get them to play anywhere we need them and they've been doing it fantastically."
Shelton (1-2-0) had its best chance to score five minutes after halftime from a corner kick. The Gaels got a touch on the initial ball sent in, whacking it off the crossbar and back into play. It fell to Matthew Stoll but his shot from close range was pawed away by a sprawling Steiner.
In the final minute Bruton came inches away from completing a hat trick with a free kick, again from the right, but it squirted through a sea of Shelton defenders and ultimately wide of the far post.
SHELTON 0 0--0
FAIRFIELD PREP 1 1--2
Records: Shelton 1-2-0; Fairfield Prep 2-0-1; Goals: FP--Davie Bruton 2; Assists: FP--Dave Bigley; Goalies: S--Daniel Lisi (4 saves), Chris Carew (0); FP--Will Steiner (2).