Phil Minneci's sensational late goal gave host Schaumburg a 3-2 win over Rolling Meadows at Gary Scholz Stadium on Tuesday night in a Mid-Suburban League season opener for both clubs.
Minneci scored with little more than nine minutes remaining after Jessie Lopez got things started from 35 yards out with a steal and strong carry up the center channel before playing the ball wide to Ryan McGowan. He provided a wonderful cross to Minneci, who went past a diving Eric Salazar to put the hosts ahead for good.
"Phil was just tremendous for us in the second half, and I thought (McGowan) and all of our subs played a key role in the eventual outcome tonight," said Schaumburg coach Hamid Mehreioskouei. "We put two good goals in before the half hour, but allowed (Rolling Meadows) to get back even before the break and take away the momentum we had built -- and that's not something we can make a habit of doing this season."
Fans were treated to some entertaining, quality play in the first period, with the Mustangs playing through midfielders Bret Gibson and Mike D'Acquisto as often as they could while targeting speedy junior forward David Zarate.
Likewise, Schaumburg was most successful going forward when the ball was on the foot of senior Alan Santana, back for his fourth year with the varsity. Sophomore Alexis Flores worked up top while Lopez, a starter last year as a freshman, was stationed deep behind the Saxons' midfield.
"We played well in the first half, but giving up those two goals, and letting Meadows get back into the game was not good, and something coach talked about at the half," said Santana.
Gibson, D'Acquisto, Kou Glaser and Zarate commanded much of the possession in the early exchanges for the Mustangs, but the Saxons (2-1-0, 1-0-0) put one in first when Sherzad Press took advantage of some trouble in the visitors' end to send a looping ball high in the air off a corner and narrowly over the endline, much to the chagrin of the Mustangs' coaching staff.
Three minutes later, the Saxons doubled their advantage as a nifty little volley from Kristian Pawlikowski found the back of the net with Santana provided the assist on the 13th-minute goal.
"There's no doubt in my mind that some of our teams in the past would have folded after allowing those two early goals, but this team didn't hang their heads, and stayed composed, and slowly got themselves back into the game," said Rolling Meadows coach Peter Mikulak.
Gibson finished what Zarate and Rueger had started on a nice little sequence of quick touches to allow the junior to drive his shot past a diving Edgar Avila to make it 2-1 at 22 minutes.
The Saxons allowed the equalizer three minutes from intermission when a 35-yard free kick from Gibson found Enrique Avellandea, who drove his header in from close range.
Minneci's goal, though, put the Saxons over the top.
"It took us awhile to find our form, but with Phil up top and doing the work he was doing every time he had a touch, we knew it was only a matter of time before something good would happen," Mehreiouskouei said. "Rolling Meadows has some very talented and skillful players who can play the game, and they're going to be a dangerous opponent for everyone in the MSL this season."
"We weren't as sharp in the second half as the first," said Mikulak, whose team dropped to 1-1-0 overall. "That combined with Schaumburg winning more of the 50-50 balls, and us maybe being a little outworked all contributed to the decision.
"With that said, we saw a lot of good things in our attack, and some great ball movement. So there were plenty of positive things to take out of this game tonight."