Christian Liberty Academy enjoyed a victory of sorts Tuesday afternoon when Austin Karr steered in the equalizer in the 80th minute to give the Chargers (0-14-1) their first points of the season after drawing 2-2 with Elgin Academy in an exciting and entertaining nonconference boys soccer contest in Arlington Heights.
The home side looked to be close to defeat when Josh Groza roared up the right side and pushed the ball past a pair of defender before sending a dangerous ball into the mix, creating a scrum inside the box where Karr would somehow find a way to find the back of the net.
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"It clearly was our best all-around effort today," said Chargers' head coach Jed Bennett, who has watched his team improve each time out, including a recent hard-fought 3-1 loss to St. Edward.
"This is just the second game we've played with a new shape and formation, and it appears everyone is comfortable playing this way, and it was exciting to see how we possessed, attacked and got everyone involved in our offense."
The visiting Hilltoppers (2-8-1) played two different halves of soccer, according to head coach Juan Silva, who liked what he saw in the second half much better than what he watched in the first 40 minutes of soccer.
"We came out a little flat, and gave up a quick goal, and ended up chasing the lead the rest of the first half, but I was very happy and pleased with our second-half effort. I just wish we had played that same way in the first 40 minutes," said Silva.
The Chargers' pace and passing was fast and crisp in the opening period, with the quartet of Travis Bennett, Joel Arackel, Groza and Karr putting their guests under pressure because of their play and effort.
Bennett's early ball up the right side found Jon Patterson on the other end and the junior fired in his close range shot past keeper Jonathen Shen, who turned in strong work all afternoon for the Hilltoppers.
Shen would turn away Karr in the 14th minute, then Bennett at 36 minutes to help keep his club in this match at the break, while at the same time, the Chargers' aggressive offside trap slowed the Hilltoppers' attack to a crawl.
"It's a shame we couldn't put one or two of those chances in (maybe) the result would have been a little different," bemoaned Bennett.
The Hilltoppers were full of vim and vigor from the opening whistle of the second period, and were immediately all over the Chargers, who conceded the equalizer at 45 minutes when Armando Sanchez redirected his header into the far inside corner off a serve from Patrick Westerhoff.
There was no reprieve for the home side, as a now confident Hilltoppers club took the lead three minutes later on an absolutely nasty right-footed drive from Julian Romano exploded into the back of the net from just outside the box.
"We were playing so quick and fast, and really knocking the ball around, and I feel like if we had put one more in, we could have gotten a win," said Silva.
Elgin Academy beat the offside traps three times during a 10-minute span, but could not beat Chargers' keeper Brenden Brosnan, who made a key save on Romano in the 67th minute.
Karr finally broke through for the Chargers with just 23 seconds left in regulation to send the faithful home happy.
"We had a real tough schedule at the start, but we're starting to come around at the right time, and the boys continued to work hard to get better," said Bennett.
Elgin Academy, is on the road at Chicago U-High on Thursday, a match in which Silva is looking forward to.
"We can build off that second half of soccer, and hopefully learn from what we did well during that time, and what we need to be better at, especially managing a lead when your tired both physically and mentally," he said.