Larkin boys soccer coach Ken Hall was hesitant to put a freshman in the center midfield spot.
But when that freshman is as talented as Diego Ramirez, it was an easy decision and it has paid off so far early in the season.
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Ramirez netted his third goal of the season Thursday night as the Royals beat Streamwood, 1-0, in Upstate Eight Conference River Division play at Memorial Field.
"He's a national team player for his age group," Hall said. "Putting a freshman at center midfield is very difficult because guys are so much bigger, stronger and faster. He's held his own with anyone there."
The Sabres (5-3, 2-1) had several chances in the first half to take the lead, but did not take advantage. The Royals (5-1, 2-0) had one good opportunity in the first half and capitalized.
Tony Hernandez played a cross-field ball over the Streamwood defense. Erik Rodriguez controlled the ball and made a strong move past a defender. With Sabres goalkeeper Brian Contreras coming out toward him, Rodriguez found Ramirez for an easy goal into an empty net.
"Tony played a great ball to Erik. I kept on making the run through the middle," Ramirez said. "Erik took one guy and looked back. I was there and able to finish."
Ramirez almost added a second goal in the final minute, but his chop shot was deflected by Contreras and cleared off the line.
Streamwood, which had its five-game winning streak snapped, had 11 shots in the first 40 minutes, but only one was on goal. The Sabres had one shot hit the top of the crossbar, two far-post shots from in close went just wide and several shots blocked. They also had a breakaway midway through the half and the attacker was taken down by what appeared to be the final defender from behind. Instead of a red card, which would have been given if the referee thought the Larkin player was the final defender, only a yellow card was shown so the Royals continued with 11 players.
"The first half we had possession probably 90 percent of the time. We had shot after shot," Sabres coach Matt Polovin said. "If we would have put away a couple of our chances, it would have been a different game."
Streamwood's best chance in the second half came with less than 6 minutes left. Christian Vences' free kick over the defense was headed by Mario Rodriguez, but it was right at Larkin goalkeeper Aldair Dominguez, who made 4 saves to earn the shutout.