Second-half goals from Tyler Block and Chase Hermanson got Conant's boys soccer team up and running as the hosts dimmed the divisional title hopes of visiting Elk Grove after a 2-2 draw Tuesday night in the annual Crosstown Classic in Hoffman Estates.
The Grens (9-4-2, 6-2-2, 20 points) now trail Mid-Suburban East division leaders Wheeling and Hersey by 2 points with one regular-season match remaining (Elk Grove plays Thursday, versus Rolling Meadows).
Wheeling earned 3 points with its 6-1 victory over Hoffman Estates on Tuesday.
Hersey drew 0-0 at Barrington, clinching the MSL West title for Broncos and assuring them of a spot in next week's MSL Cup.
"We really needed 3 points or nothing tonight," said Elk Grove coach Rob Shepard, who saw his club give away two leads before playing two goal-less extra sessions.
The Cougars (5-8-4, 3-5-2, 11 points) later defeated the Grens in shootout (5-4) to decide who would keep the Crosstown Classic trophy for the year.
"It was a game between two different styles of soccer, and I thought for our part we possessed pretty well and created some good chances," said Shepard. "But we've struggled lately to find that killer touch in the final third, and when you don't finish your chances, you get a result like tonight. And now we might be out of the race for the division crown."
A fairly even first period turned in the Grens' favor when Jonathon Arzeta swept in his team-leading 15th goal of the season in the 36th minute. Then Hermanson went close, only to have keeper Alberto Centeno keep his equalizer attempt out of the net at 40 minutes.
Just minutes after the intermission, Block drew the Cougars even when his booming right-footer strike went through a crowd, redirecting off a Grens player and into the net.
That goal opened up play from both teams, and soon the visitors were playing through and finding Gio Garcia, David Bahena and Carlos Gomez much more often. Meanwhile, Hermanson, Dino Kandalepas and Ejike Okpa did well to put the Cougars in promising situations.
"We usually struggle with real technical opponents like Elk Grove, but I thought tonight our work rate was real high, and because of that we were able to get more chances than we did on Saturday against Hersey," said Conant coach Jason Franco.
An enterprising center-channel run from Garcia resulted in a drive wide of the post in the 50th minute, but nine minutes later, the Grens' senior midfielder had much better luck from distance when he drove a 30-yard blast into the net to give his club a 2-1 advantage.
The Hermanson-Brandon Dos Santos connection came through at 63 minutes when the Cougars back-liner provided a wonderful serve into the area. Hermanson finished with a sensational half-bicycle.
"Chase and I have had some real good luck together -- with me on one end with free kicks, and him on the other scoring, we combined to score on Saturday against Hersey," said Dos Santos. "But tonight was even bigger for us."
Cougars keeper Patryk Openchowski was superb with his goal-saving effort in the 85th minute on Sergio Aguirre.
In the second extra session, Conant dominated for most of the 10 minutes with Hermanson, Kandalepas, Matt Moglia and Okpa causing most of the trouble.
"This was a good result against a quality opponent, and one of the top teams in the MSL this season," said Franco. "Hopefully we can build off of this with the playoffs just around the corner."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.