Anthony Morales popped up with a late game-winner to help visiting Niles West gain the upper hand in the 75th minute to spoil the boys soccer season opener for host Prospect, which dropped a 2-1 match Tuesday night at George Gattas Stadium.
"We played hard, and with a lot of good effort, but with so many new players on the roster this season we obviously have a lot of work ahead of us," said Jason Cohen, who returns as head coach after running the show at the sophomore level while Kurt Trenkle was in charge.
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The outcome might have been different had the Knights been able to solve Wolves keeper Carlos Lome, who made several key stops in the second half, much to the delight of Niles West coach Scott Ackman.
"I thought both keepers did very well tonight, but Carlos came up so big for us when we needed him, just as he did last year when he started every game for us as a freshman," said Ackman, who guided the Wolves to an 8-8-4 record last fall.
This speed of play was frantic, as many season openers are. The result was little possession through midfield, but plenty of balls played over the top which were easily defended.
Ian Lenke, one of the few returning starters for the Knights, helped keep an inexperienced back line organized in front of newcomer Nick Jozefowski before the keeper left with an injury near the hour mark.
"When need to get Dan Marshall back while getting Lenke 100 percent healthy, and that in turn will not only make our defense that much stronger, but also help give us some much needed experience in our starting lineup," said Cohen.
Jozefowski came off his line smartly to block a Morales blast from in close in the 16th minute, then watched his counterpart punch a well-placed corner from Bryan Velazquez out of the box as the left-footed inward swinger neared the spot.
Jozefowski was called upon at the half-hour when a loose ball fell to Denis Soldo. If not for a quick reaction save, the Wolves would have taken a 1-goal advantage into the intermission.
The Knights absorbed pressure for the final five minutes of the first period as the Wolves gathered plenty of energy after the Soldo attempt.
Then the Knights came out with far more urgency and pace after the break.
Opportunistic senior Dominick Taldone took advantage fully of a ball which fell freely to him, and the Knights' captain made the Wolves pay for it with a powerful low drive past Lome from close range.
"We didn't play our best in the first half, but I thought we came out and played with more energy and purpose -- it's just too bad we gave up that late goal," said Taldone.
The lead was short-lived, though, as a superb individual effort from Antwan Mousa led to the equalizer 60 seconds later.
"It was great to score a transition goal, but we got careless and gave it right back," said Cohen.
Alex Whiteman nearly put the Knights ahead after Maciel Lojewski put him through, rattling the far post in the 51st minute before Taldone hit the underside of the crossbar.
Later, Lojewski watched as Lome stopped his powerful drive to keep the Wolves' hopes alive.
"I thought our second half was much better, especially in our attack and with our creativity up top, so we'll build from that as we go forward," said Cohen.
The Knight will be at St. Viator this Saturday morning, while Niles West meets Central Suburban power Evanston this weekend.