Three years after its most recent Mid-Suburban League championship, Palatine was at it again Thursday night.
After 100 minutes of soccer could not separate the Pirates and MSL East champ Buffalo Grove, penalty kicks finally did.
The Pirates lifted the conference trophy for an MSL-record eighth time after beating the Bison 4-1 in kicks, and 2-1 in the 36th annual MSL Cup played at Grant Blaney Stadium.
"You trade all of the other titles just to see a great group like this one celebrating a conference championship, and although all of the others are very special to me, this one maybe means a little more because of the terrific bunch of guys we have on this team," said Pirates coach Willie Filian.
Matt Fleischhauer converted his fourth-round spot kick to end a long night which nearly went in favor of the host Bison (12-6-0), who were in pursuit of the program's first league title since 1988.
"There wasn't a whole lot more we could have asked this team to do tonight," said BG coach Rick Carlson. "We were without two starters tonight, including the MSL East player of the year (Irving Eloiza), and we started two freshmen in the back and a keeper who wasn't even with us last year on the varsity. Yet we had Palatine chasing the lead until the very end when they put one in to send it into overtime."
Despite a manpower advantage for the Pirates (16-1-3), it was BG taking the lead just eight minutes into the second period. The Bison were able to do so because they're done such a great job of defending countless deep throws and corners taken by Palatine.
"We knew (Palatine) would get their share of dead-ball opportunities, and they got plenty, especially in the first half," said Bison captain and leading scorer Demo Drakoulis, who entered the evening with 15 goals. "I thought our backline did a great job defending all of their chances, but they still were able to get one in on us -- not because of a lack of effort on our part."
With Eloiza out of the match due to a red card in the final regular-season match for the Bison, it was left to Alberto Eloyza to direct the potent Bison attack. The senior proved up to the task, creating and distributing from his midfield spot and tracking back when needed to slow the Pirates.
"Buffalo Grove did a very good job of doubling Jeremy (Velinski) -- especially on all of our corners, and since he's key to the success of those plays, we had trouble converting on a lot of those chances," said Palatine senior midfielder Dave Clark, who joins brothers Josh and Jonathan as an MSL champ for Palatine. Josh and Jonathan starred under Filian when the Pirates won in 2005 and 2009.
With 18 minutes gone, Pirates senior Marco Arreloa headed over the bar one of eight deep throws Velinski unloaded in the first half-hour. Moments later, Velinski drove his header over the bar after teammate Johnny Enriquez sent a nice putback in from the back post.
Despite the rising dead-ball count, the BG freshman duo of Ryan Drum and Drew Brauner, along with veterans Alexis Herrera and Daniel Ramirez, all in front of keeper Dillon Eaton, grew more confident as they weathered Palatine's storm.
With a cold wind in its face after intermission, the Bison struck first when Eloyza somehow was able to play the ball into the path of Aldo Figueroa. The senior kept his composure as the large Bison crowd rose up in anticipation of his finish, which he provided on a nifty touch past Palatine keeper Kyle Leber.
The Pirates showed attacking intent after the Figueroa strike with Arreola, Clark and some terrific work off the bench from Sergio Hernandez and Saul Gutierrez, but once again, Eaton shone brightly in denying the Pirates.
About three minutes from time, Gavin Falotico stepped in for Velinski on a long throw. His inch-perfect throw found Clark, who in turn headed back the other way toward the post and an unmarked Velinski, and he thumped in his eighth goal of the year.
"I saw 'Ski at the end of his run and just sent it his way," said Clark.
The frantic pace and physical play, along with a steady rain, helped produce just a few modest chances once the match went into overtime. After the two ten-minute extra sessions ended without a score, the match headed to a shootout.
Velinski, Ulises Alcaraz and Kyle Clancy were perfect in the Pirates' first three spot kicks, while only Eloyza was able to beat Leber, who stopped two attempts. That set up the heroics for Fleischhauer, whose stutter step as he approached his shot got Eaton leaning the opposite way.
"I knew what way I was going, but I was also hoping to get him going the wrong way for my shot," Fleischauer said.