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updated: 9/25/2012 10:50 PM

Morton sharp in shutout victory over Leyden

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By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

Morton showed no letdown after its heartbreaking 1-0 loss in the Pepsi Showdown last Sunday at Toyota Park.

The Mustangs gave a superb 80-minute performance Tuesday night before a big home crowd at Leyden in a 2-0 victory.

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The victory moved Morton (16-1-0) to the top of the class in the West Suburban Gold.

Abel Guzman struck for both of Morton's goals, while his mates Edgar Garcia and Mario Romero helped control the middle of the park all evening long to frustrate the Eagles (10-4-3, 2-1-0).

Leyden searched all evening for its form and pace but never found it in the biggest match of the season thus far for the Mark Valintis' young club.

"It just wasn't there for us tonight," said Valintis, whose club came in riding a three-game win streak, including a 2-1 victory over St. Charles North. "We didn't handle the pressure that Morton brought right from the opening, and because of that we didn't keep our composure on the ball, and constantly gave it away, many times in our own end, which forced us to defend far more than we wanted to."

Morton coach Mike Caruso said he didn't know how his team would come out after its loss to Lyons in the Pepsi championship match.

"But the boys responded better than I would have thought," Caruso said. "And they really rose up the occasion of such a big, big match, which could decide a division title."

After sophomore keeper Konrad Dziedzic turned a nasty free kick from Joel Leon around the post, and Guzman skimmed the bar with his angled shot, the Mustangs broke on top when Leo Delgado and Guzman raced up the left side on the counter.

Delgado sent a well-placed cross to the spot and when a Leyden defender was unable to clear the dangerous ball out of the area, the ever opportunistic Guzman charged to the spot to redirect the loose ball past a diving Dziedzic.

The Morton goal at the half-hour mark inspired the reigning 3A state champions, who nearly added to their lead just before the break.

Garcia whipped in a cross off the counter in which Danny Eufracio found, but then hit the bar with his attempt.

"Edgar and Mario (Romero) a sophomore, really did a good job in the middle for us all night," Caruso said.

The Mustangs began the second period as brightly they finished the first, forcing Dziedzic to make a nice reaction save when Guzman ran onto a hard drive on the floor from Abdon Salgado. That was followed by a twisting shot from Julio Pedroza which went just over the outstretched gloves of Dziedzic.

Despite their troubles, the Eagles created a few chances in its search to equalize.

The first came after its best combination work of the night with Christian Hernandez, Juan Recendez and freshmen Albert Arabik, the team leader in goals scored, all having a touch which resulted in a Leyden freekick.

Later, a long ball out of the back from Ricky Pimentel unraveled the Mustangs offsides trap. If Arabik had taken one more touch, the big striker might have set himself free and in on Morton keeper Ian Chacon.

With the Morton midfield playing strong on both sides of the ball and staying organized when it tracked back to defend, the passing lanes for the Eagles' quickly evaporated.

That helped keep the possession levels low and the chances to a minimum.

Anyer Gonzalez headed a long throw from Recendez wide in the 74th minute.

Three minutes later, Tony Guzman freely ran onto a long punt from Dziedzic but steered his shot wide of Chacon.

With Dziedzic near the mid-line in the waning moments to send balls into the mix, Guzman stole a wayward pass and quickly chip the sophomore who was unable to catch up to the Guzman shot which nested into the back of the net with seconds left in regulation.

"We just didn't have it tonight, and Morton did, and they earned their result, while putting themselves in a good position to win the division," Valintis said. "We obviously have some things we have to work on, and sort out, and we'll see how the boys come back from this loss, and the effort, or lack of one, they all put in."

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