Conant came through with a hard-earned victory Tuesday evening, one night after a tough loss to conference rival Palatine tested the mettle of a Cougars side which is struggling in the finishing department while it battles injuries.
Nathan Cornell struck the game-winner at 13 minutes to help the Cougars (2-2-1) earn a 1-0 decision over Streamwood in third-round play of the 20th annual Lancer Classic in Hoffman Estates on the Cougars' home pitch.
"It felt good to have some of the play fall on the right side of the field, and to be able to finish," said Cornell. "Let's hope it stays that way for awhile."
The teams entertained the audience with exciting, fast-paced soccer, and with quick touches through the middle of the field.
Sabres' midfielders Ivan Rosales and Nestor Ascensio had the bulk of the touches, while their counterparts, Tristan Conrad and Joe Bosco, provided ample scoring opportunities.
"We're doing just about everything we want to in our attack, and the guys are getting into the final third fairly well, but the story so far is that we can't finish, witnessed by so many 1-goal decisions so far this year," said Sabres head coach Matt Polovin saw his team drop to 1-3-1, each of the losses 1-0. "I really thought we played a very good first-half, but kind of a lack-luster second half, which I don't want to use an excuse, but it may have something to do with the fact that tonight was our sixth match in seven days."
"Streamwood really has a nice looking team -- they can knock it around and become very dangerous, very quickly," said Conant coach Jason Franco. "I thought for us, we came out and responded well to our loss last night to Palatine and matched Streamwood's quickness on the ball and ability to play through the middle."
The visitors stuck to their game plan of building from the back and connecting with Rosales and Ascensio. But they found themselves in trouble every time it went forward as Cornell, Silas Lin, Andres Alfaro and Bosco opened space for each other with enterprising runs and quality service. Cougars center-midfielder Tristan Conrad also provided solid play.
Bosco delivered a superb ball on the counter up the right side, and Cornell, with a burst of speed, touched past the Sabres' backline to get himself free before another deft touch eluded a charging Jose Resendiz, who'd raced off his line to challenge.
After the Cougars' goal, a fast rate of play allowed for some terrific counters, and a nice balance in the attack from both sides. But most of it was between the 18s as each side lacked the necessary polish in the final third to produce quality chances against Resendiz and Cougars keeper Sean Cox.
Ascenscio delivered a well-aimed ball at Cox in the 61st minute to force a save by the senior, and moments later, it appeared the Cougars doubled their lead when Billy Belmonte served a delightful ball to the back post, which found the net but a flag from the assistant referee on the near side and an offsides flag waived off the goal.
Afterward, neither club generateed much in the way of offense, and when the final whistle brought the match to a close, Polovin promised an easy training session Wednesday, centering on finishing.
Franco hopes another day will help heal injuries to Curtis King, Zach Conrad and Michael Natalino.
"Michael gave his right ankle a go for 15-20 minutes tonight, but you can see he's just not 100 percent, and the other (two) are getting almost ready to go. And that's good news, along with our win tonight."