Quick goals in succession from Zach Masciopinto and Nick Pilli was all an air-tight Buffalo Grove defense needed as the Bison earned 2-0 Mid-Suburban League boys soccer victory Saturday over Hoffman Estates on the turf at Grant Blaney Stadium.
"Our strength has been our defense all year, so it was great to get a couple of goals in that first half and not be in such a tightly played match," said Bison co-captain Allan Santiaguillo, the lone remaining player along the back from the 2012 championship club.
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"I wasn't sure how we would be on our back line with so many news guys next to me, but Sean (King), Brendan (Carr), Matt (Hamburger) and Hans Haller (BG's keeper Saturday) have all come along so well, and it shows in how many goals we've allowed so far."
The Bison recorded their sixth shutout. The main challenge for BG has generating scoring of its own.
"The guys in the back have kept us in every game but Huntley, but now we've got to catch up a little with our attack," said Buffalo Grove coach Rick Carlson, who has watched his club score a total of 10 goals so far.
Hawks coach Matt Sriver knows exactly what his coaching counterpart is going through. Only Hoffman Estates has scored just twice through seven contests.
"Everyone seems to be having trouble scoring on a consistent basis," said Sriver. "For us, with us being so young and inexperienced, it just seems like it's a lot tougher for us to put one in, even when we have a great opportunity to do so."
That Hawks' best chance against BG came in the 53rd minute, when Haller looked like a full-time keeper with his brave save on a close-range angled smash from Remzi Ahmeti.
"Hans is very athletic for a kid his size, and he's done so well in the back with Allan and the guys, but he made a big save for us then and a few minutes later (on Misael Vargas) to keep us comfortably ahead," said Carlson.
Up until those two chances by the Hawks (1-6-0, 0-4-0), the game was firmly in the hands of the Bison, who countered well, playing through Pat Tucharski, Mike Kotlyar and Drew Brauner as often as it could through the middle, and targeting Masciopinto and Daniel Ramirez up top.
"I thought (BG) outworked us most of the day, especially in the middle, where we just didn't match them like we should on both sides of the ball," said Sriver.
Masciopinto gave the Bison the lead at 28 minutes when he used a nice touch to wrong-foot Hawks keeper Christian Peralta, who was moving the opposition direction in anticipation of a shot.
Four minutes later, Pilli doubled the advantage for BG (3-3-4, 1-1-2-5 points) when the visitors were not clean enough in their own end, allowing a crossfield serve from Todor Dimitrov to break down the Hawks' shape at the back post. Pilli controlled a loose ball at the other post before steering his right-footer past Peralta, who had no chance on the 12-yard blast.
"It looks like we'll be chasing front-runners Elk Grove and Wheeling the rest of the way because of our two draws against Prospect and Palatine, but we know we can be there at the end with the way this team is playing defense," said Carlson.