FAIRFIELD -- The Darien boys soccer team has had its fair share of tough early-season matchups, and Monday afternoon's venture to Fairfield Warde High School was certainly no exception.
After four consecutive losses to begin its season, Darien came in desperate to earn points in the FCIAC standings, and the result was a chippy and physically demanding 1-1 draw in a game that saw six yellow cards issued (three for each team).
"We've been close in our first four games. I thought we were definitely the better team today," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "We had a chance to make it 2-nil to put the game away, but they obviously scored a very good goal to get back in the game. This is what we're in for. We're in for a dogfight every game, but we know we can compete with these teams."
Although he was aware of Darien's (0-4-1) winless record coming into Monday, Fairfield Warde (3-1-2) coach Justin Ottavio knew that the meeting with the Blue Wave would be anything but a layup for his Mustangs.
"Going in, we knew Darien hadn't had a win or a tie, and without question I knew they were a better program and better team than what their record indicated, and I think our team was aware of that," Ottavio said. "In the end, we realized that three points were on the line in the FCIAC, so they started to play the way they can play, and it led to some great opportunities, but (Darien's) keeper was brilliant."
Having scored just one goal in its first four games, Darien earned the break it needed early in the second half, as Kai Bjornstad entered the Warde box to chase down a loose ball. Warde goalie Mickey Kathein, who came far out of his net in an effort to get to the ball before Bjornstad could track it down, inadvertently tripped the Darien forward, giving the Blue Wave a penalty shot.
Bjornstad's ensuing penalty kick to the top-left corner of the net was true, as Darien claimed a 1-0 advantage.
"I'm excited to see a point on the board, and it's a step in the right direction," Darien's captain Chris Chiamulera said. "We just kind of buckled down during halftime and realized that we needed to step up, start scoring and get this season going."
Minutes later, Bjornstad had a golden opportunity to double his team's lead after receiving a crossing pass on the left side of the Warde net, but he was denied by Kathein, who moved quickly to his right to grab the save.
Warde withstood Darien's pressure early in the second half and eventually began to generate some chances of its own.
The Mustangs drew even with 19:17 remaining when a hard-charging Gerald Claudette forced Darien goalie Liam Rischmann to come out of the net. Claudette's shot got past the Blue Wave goalie and rolled slowly into the back of the net, pulling the Mustangs even at 1-1.
With just over a minute remaining, Darien got one final chance when Jack Kniffin outran a Warde defender to get to a long clearing pass, but Kathein came far out of the net to meet Kniffin's shot head-on, deflecting it out of play.
"Today I think we actually created some nice chances. We had a great chance right at the end and their keeper made a great save. I'm not disappointed in the way we're playing," Bradley said. "It's a very, very well-deserved tie, which we may well need at the end of the season."
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DARIEN 1, FAIRFIELD WARDE 1
DARIEN 0 1--1
FAIRFIELD WARDE 0 1--1
Records: Darien 0-4-1; Fairfield Warde 3-1-2. Goals: D--Kai Bjornstad; FW--Gerald Claudette. Goalies: D--Liam Rischmann (10 saves); FW--Mickey Kathein (6). Shots: D--9; FW--15.