In a tense game with Mid-Suburban League divisional fortunes at stake, the host Pirates enjoyed the outcome as Jeremy Velinski’s 38th-minute goal was the difference Thursday against rival Barrington.
The 1-0 shutout captured the Mid-Suburban West crown for the Pirates and earned them a spot in next Thursday’s MSL Cup against Buffalo Grove.
“If you would have asked me before the start of the year if we would be in this position, I am not too sure that I would have answered yes,” said Palatine coach Willie Filian. “But I know that both Kyle (Clancy) and Ski (Velinski) really believed this team would be here tonight, and if they both said so, then I’ve got to believe the rest of the team thought so as well.”
The Pirates (15-1-2, 10-0-1, 31 points) return to the championship match was done in classic Palatine style.
Palatine used pressure on the ball for 80 minutes, high-work rate, plenty of dead-ball and set-piece opportunities and a goal off its trademark corners.
“If you came here expecting attractive soccer, then you were disappointed,” Filian said. “But that’s the way we play, and against an opponent like Barrington (16-3-2) which is very skillful, can possess and attack, and plays much prettier than us, that’s the only way we can compete with a team like that.
“But what we do, and what this team has bought into, is the type of soccer that can cause a team like Barrington a lot of problems.”
Once the match began after a lightning delay, the home side nearly found itself in trouble just four minutes into the contest.
Ethan Claes’ free kick effort pried open the Pirates in their own end, allowing Broncos frosh scoring sensation Kendall Stork to slip free and drive his shot into the near corner.
However, Stork turned around to see the assistant referee raise his flag to signal off-sides.
“Maybe the entire match turns around on that one sequence,” said Barrington coach Scott Steib. “I’d like to think the game opens up a little if we get into the back of the net, and maybe we play the way we have all season.
“But instead, after that, we fell into the trap of just playing kick ball and not possessing or building our attack. And obviously much of that had to do with the way Palatine plays the game.”
In a match which was played mostly between the 18’s, both goal mouths were largely underused.
Much of that was due to some watertight defense played by both clubs, something opponents of the two best sides in the MSL have seen all year long.
The teams combined for 19 shutouts this season while allowing just 20 goals between them.
The Broncos entered the night with 6 shutouts in their last 7 matches and a 13-game unbeaten streak.
“It’s tough to see our streak end like this, and on a night that meant so much for all of us,” Claes said. “That’s not the type of soccer that we like to play, but Palatine just pressures the ball all over the place, and there’s never any time to do much of anything but just one-touch or direct, and that really worked to their advantage.”
Clancy, and his back line mates Ulises Alcaraz, and especially Matt Fleischhauer, according to both Filian and assistant, Charlie Gries, were superb.
And with the Pirates’ midfield tackling and winning most of the first and second balls, while staying organized, the Broncos’ attack fizzled before it ever got started.
“It’s not flashy, or pretty for that matter, but it’s the way we play,” Clancy said. “And with the high work rate that everyone puts in, it makes it difficult to play against us.”
After nearly a dozen corners in the first half, the Pirates put one of them away, when Sergio Hernandez sent one into the mix. Dave Clark and Johnny Enriquez kept it alive long enough for Velinski, who came from nowhere to drive his one-timer high into the back of the net.
“Johnny didn’t touch (it) and just kind of left it there, and I put it in,” Velinski said.
The Broncos pushed extra numbers forward near the hour mark in hopes of finding the equalizer.
But even when Steib loaded things up on the front line with three forwards, Claes, Connor Hennelly and Craig Zahour were unable to find their mates up top, or each other through the middle of the park, which was clogged up tightly by the Pirates.
The best weapon for the visitors in the second period was from several long range serves out of the back from defender Fernando Telles.
One nearly knocked Pirates keeper Kyle Leber out of commission when his well-paced drive from 40 yards picked up an extra head of steam at the end, and drove Leber into the post when he elevated to pull the ball out of the air.
Leber was briefly replaced by Colin Dumphy in the 47th minute, but returned two minutes later to stay on for the rest of the way.
A handful of flip throws from Dylan Nelson would cause the Pirates faithful some nervous moments, and lead to corners for the Broncos.
But Clancy and his men tightened up to defend the serves from the flag by Claes and others.
Logan Morris’ stinging drive hit the bar in the 68th minute. That would be as close as the Broncos would go.
Twelve minutes later, the Pirates were celebrating its first division title since the fall of 2009.
“We almost were able to level when Logan went off the bar, but we never really generated much of anything all night,” Steib said. “Whether you like the way Palatine plays the game of soccer or not, you’ve got to give Willie, Charlie and his boys a lot of credit for playing a system, and staying with it. It works for them, and that’s what it’s all about.”
“This isn’t a team of individuals, and that’s maybe the difference between us and the rest of the others,” Clancy said.
Buffalo Grove 3, Hoffman Estates 1: The combination of Buffalo Grove’s victory and Hersey’s 2-0 loss to Conant sends the Bison through to the title match for the first time since 2000, when it lost ironically, to Conant (1-0) which helped the BG cause on Thursday.
The Bison rallied from 1-0 deficit with 3 second-half goals (seniors Irving Eloyza, Irving Balboa and Demo Drakoulis).
Luis Ortiz had the goal that gave Hoffman it 1-0 advantage.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.