Nelson Herrera is downright dangerous.
The Maine West junior continued his offensive onslaught on his opponents by scoring all three of the Warriors' goals to fuel a 3-0 victory over visiting Leyden (3-1-1) Wednesday evening in Des Plaines.
"We knew what to expect with (Herrera) and obviously he's an exciting player, and fun to watch -- but I'd rather not have to watch too much of that when we're playing him," said Leyden coach Mark Valintis, whose club conceded its first goals of the season after keeping its first four opponents out of the net. "We kind of got caught watching and didn't pick (Herrera) up, and a player of that level will take advantage of that. And he did."
The early exchanges didn't see either side show much of its game until the Eagles gave Herrera too much space and time to take two touches before firing a 22-yard dipping blast that ripped into the corner.
Two minutes later Miguel Lopez set up his teammate. Almost effortlessly, Herrera drove his shot off the glove of Leyden keeper Oscar Puga who was in full extension as he headed toward the left post.
"It's nice having a big-time scorer like Nelson," said Warriors senior Jerry Espinoza. "He takes the pressure off because he can create so many chances for himself and others, and tonight, by scoring those two (early) quick goals, he allowed us to settle in, relax and play the way we want to."
"We're a little banged up right now, and with us missing a few guys, it caused our rotation to change a little bit," said Maine West coach Mike Divicenzo, "but I really felt our play in the first half was very good on both sides of the ball. In in the second half, the six games we've played in just over a week caught up with a little bit and we lacked the sharpness we had in that first half."
Maine West (6-0-0) travels to Fon du Lac, Wis., on Friday with the Warriors (6-0-0) looking to defend the tournament title they claimed a year ago.
The Eagles' early deficit, which forced them to chase a lead for the first time this season, gave Valintis a glimpse of how his young club would respond to some adversity. After struggling following Herrera's first goal, his side showed its mettle and found all-area MF Juan Recendez more frequently in the attack.
"I really was anxious to see how we would come back, and although we didn't find our pace in that first half, I was pleased with what I saw after the break," Valintis said. "Now we'll go forward and get to work on some things."
Recendez bent his free kick around the Warriors' wall at 18 minutes to force keeper Jecson Torres to make one of just a handful of saves on the night. Later, Leyden's Arturo Vidal did not have enough pace on his left-footed shot to properly test Torres.
Just before the break, Recendez' nifty little right-to-left run through the box nearly allowed the Eagles' captain to catch up to a quality serve off a dead-ball chance by Ricky Pimentel.
Moments into the second period, it was evident the Eagles were eager to push the tempo, and once again it was Recendez, along with Anyer Gonzales in the middle of the park, who had a hand in much of the good work in the attack. But Espinoza, Ozzie Fernandez, Alex Contreras and Chayanne Trejo made it nearly impossible for the visitors to thread passes through to its front-runners, or to build its attack with possession.
"Josh Deleon and Luis Zamora both were very good tonight, and it proves how good our depth is when we can bring guys like that on to do the job for us," said Espinoza.
Deleon came into the match for the injured Hubert Polinski and was strong along the backline. Zamora earned plenty of minutes along the way when Divincenzo brought him on, and he received an unofficial helper when he helped created a PK opportunity for Herrera at 76 minutes. Herrera he calmly converted from the spot to record his 10th goal of the young season.
Leyden will travel to St. Ignatius on Saturday before taking a break from the competition until next Thursday, when the Eagles travel to WSC Gold foe Hinsdale South.
Barrington 3, Crystal Lake South 0: Kendall Stork scored the Broncos' first goal and assisted on the second as the Broncos claimed victory in their own tournament.
Danny Jaderholm and Sean Kim also scored for Barrington (2-1-1), which faces St. Charles North as action continues tonight.
In other games Wednesday, Wheaton Warrenville South topped Marmion 1-0, New Trier beat Rockford Boylan 1-0 and St. Charles North edged Lake Zurich 2-1.