A goal in the 16th minute by Jahir Flores proved enough for Palatine boys soccer team on Thursday night as the Pirates edged visiting St. Viator 1-0 at Chic Anderson Stadium in a nonconference contest between the perennial boys soccer powers.
Both clubs went into the match protecting perfect records, with the host Pirates unscored upon in previous victories over Highland Park and Prairie Ridge.
A high-tempo opening by the hosts saw coach Willie Filian's team tackle and win 50-50 balls with gusto.
The Pirates (3-0-0) kept the ball in the Lions' end for the first quarter hour until Flores ran freely onto a loose ball and drove in the lone goal of the match with a cool, calm touch.
"The idea was to come out and put a lot of high pressure on them, create some chances and keep the ball in their end as much as we could," Filian said. "Putting the first goal in was a big deal for us because we knew that they (St. Viator) are fit, and very capable of getting into a nice rhythm, much like they did in the second half against Prospect last weekend. That was something we wanted to avoid at all costs."
St. Viator coach Mike Taylor, whose team is 2-1-0, said Palatine dominated the first 20 to 25 minutes.
"And we did the same the second half of the period," he said. "And then we had the run of play almost the entire second half but didn't finish the chances we created."
The Pirates had a wonderful opportunity to double their lead shortly after the Flores strike. Tyler Curylo came in on the right side alone, only to steer his low shot at keeper Tom Martin, who stayed with the well-paced attempt for the save.
Palatine continued to stretch the Lions, looking for holes to play direct balls. But a stubborn backline led by Ethan Wolf and Ryan Henry kept the opponent at bay until the Lions' attack came alive.
"We knew what Palatine would do and it's something we worked on during training," Henry said. "But I thought we defended their set piece chances pretty well, and created some very good ones for ourselves from (Ethan's) long throws. We just didn't put any of them into the net."
A nice piece of combination work from Spencer Moore, Zach Gyuricza and Nick Winters nearly saw Winters have a go in tight on keeper Kyle Leber at 32 minutes.
But three minutes later the best chance of the half fell to Moore, who found himself alone inside the box only to have his shot cleared off the line.
Leber was tested all night with Wolf's throws, several of which forced the senior keeper into a crowd to either punch or pull the ball down. Many came with the added stress of having several players from St. Viator putting a body on the Palatine co-captain.
It was mostly one-way traffic in the direction of Leber and his teammates after the break.
Another captain, Kyle Clancy, came to the rescue with Kevin Burke, Brian Mars and Gavin Falotico doing their best to stop the Lions.
"We showed a lot of resolve in that second half when (St. Viator) was coming hard at us," Filian said. "And it was kind of ironic that we were on the other end of so many dangerous long throws from No. 17 (Wolf), which is always something we've been so good at."
Henry, Gyuricza, Kevin McMahon, Moore and others were the driving force in the Lions' attack during a frantic final 15 minutes of regulation, but the Pirates' defense held.
With less than 15 seconds left, Moore and Clancy came together on a 50-50 challenge deep in Palatine's end. While close to the near flag, and after the two stars collided, Clancy bounced back up. However ,the all-state striker stayed down on the turf.
After several minutes of attention from the trainer, the center official blew the whistle ending the match. Moore continued to be worked on, until finally escorted to the bench with help from Taylor and others.
"We go to Milwaukee (today to play Marquette (University High) then Peoria Notre Dame on Saturday," Taylor said. "And we might just have to do it without Spencer.
"We'll see how he responds to some treatment and go from there. Other than that, it was a well-played match, especially in the second half. But again, we need to put some of those chances in."