Some pundits have predicted Fremd will struggle this season after losing nearly every key figure from the Vikings' third-place state team a year ago.
A quick glance at the Vikings' record thus far may appear -- on the surface -- to validate that scenario.
But veteran Fremd coach Steve Keller has been doing this top long -- with a trove of postseason hardware in the trophy case -- to concede anything despite' the Vikings 0-6-2 record.
Saturday morning, after a dreadful 40 minutes of soccer against 2A power Peoria Notre Dame, the Vikings rebounded to put together a marvelous second half. They drew even near the hour mark and went close with several chances before ending in a 1-1 draw in the Saxons Invite at Schaumburg.
"We just might be the best 0-6 team in the state," Keller said with a wry smile. "To be serious, we've lost five matches by just 1 goal, and drew (0-0) in another, so if we can continue to progress and learn, when the end of the season comes around we might be a dangerous group to play."
The Irish (2-1-2), who rallied from a 3-1 deficit Friday to tie host Schaumburg at 3-3, were dynamic from the opening whistle, putting on a sublime display of passing and winning the air war in the middle of the park.
"We were just awful in that first half," Keller said.
"You had to know that (Keller) was going to let us know just how bad we were in that first half, but somehow we escaped with just 1 goal in on us and that second half was just a big turnaround for us," said the Vikings' Jeremy Kosacz, who has been moved up top to fuel the Vikings' attack after spending the entire 2011 campaign as a midfielder.
The Irish netted a well-deserved goal after dominating the first 20 minutes when talented senior Alex Garcia put a superb ball through to teammate Drew Whalen -- and steered in his left-footed strike from close range.
"We did all the things very well in that first half, but we kind of got away from (it) about midway through the second half, and struggled from the rest of the way afterwards," said coach Mike Bare, who guided the Irish to a third-place 2A finish in November with a record of 21-6-0.
Early in the second period, the rejuvenated Vikings created a handful of corners in the first 10 minutes, a pair ending in the gloves of Irish keeper Justin Buck.
Moments later, Kosacz beat his mark but shot wide of the post, then raced to a ball out of the back from Michael Debellis and fired a shot over the bar.
The Vikings finally drew even at 58 minutes, when Nate Hellwarth gave Kosacz an early ball down the right side, With a burst of speed, Kosacz got to the ball before an Irish defender and sent a raking angled shot crashing off the far post and over the end line just inside the near post.
"We had so many chances in that second half, so it felt good to get one of them into the back of the net," Kosacz said.
Keeper Steven Soltykiewicz, who came on in the second half for starter Nathan Duffield, made a goal-saving stop off a left-footed cracker from Ben Fiddes. The Vikings in front of him -- John Smith, Eric Scott and Brock VonHolt -- were solid throughout the half to help preserve the result.
"This is why we come up here every year, to get two quality opponents and two different styles of play to hopefully help us later on when the playoffs begin in late October," said Bare, whose club defeated nationally ranked Chaminade of Missouri 1-0.