An early goal from senior Collin Foreman, then another from him just before time helped Lake Zurich earn a 2-0 victory on the road Wednesday night on the turf at Morris Field in Arlington Heights, spoiling the season opener for host St. Viator.
Foreman's first strike at 23 minutes looked as if it would be all the Bears would need to win their second consecutive match to start the season. He added to it in the 80th minute with a wonderful individual effort after teammate Zane Chung Medhi set up the sequence.
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"We gave a pretty good effort out there tonight," Foreman said. "We could have been better in a lot of ways, (but) Zane gave me a great assist out of the back to set me free, and I was able to beat the last defender, then their keeper to get that second goal," said Foreman, who was part of a 5-0 victory over Carmel on Monday.
"We opened up well tonight," said Bears coach Mike Schmitz, "but we didn't possess and string passes as well as we did against Carmel. But the effort was very good for us, and it's great to see all 18 guys contribute and play hard when they're out there.
The new-look Lions labored in the first quarter-hour, with the visitors taking control of midfield play thanks to the efforts of Nate Rathe, Ian Murray and Jack Abry. Their ability to win 50-50 balls kept St. Viator in its own end early.
"Lake Zurich had the advantage of already playing a first game, and in the first part of this ballgame, we looked and played lost, and showed some nerves when we were on the ball," said St. Viator coach Mike Taylor. "But when you've lost (nine) starters, and you're missing one of your top players (Javier Romero), you're going to struggle at the onset. I felt as the first half went on, we got ourselves back into the game, and had a lot of the run of play at that time."
With Romero forced to miss the opener after receiving a red card in the season finale last October, the Lions' new formation, and attack was unable to match the pace of the Bears, and at 23 minutes, they payed for it.
That's when Murray's enterprising run up the left side brought a pair of defenders to him, leaving enough space for the senior to send a lovely ball to Foreman, who went under diving Lions keeper Aaron Tres.
"The entire back line is brand new this season, so we're still working on a few things," said senior Chris Beirsdorf, who sits in the middle of the Lions' four-man defensive group, "but we'll get better with more training and games."
Ryan Carroll and Zach Gyurizca teammed up on a nice one-two combination to give Carroll the Lions their best look on frame of the first half, but the attempt failed to test Bears keeper Geroge Maroudas.
The sequence helped bring the Lions' attack to life, and the final 10 minutes of the period were played mostly in the LZ end. It was Carroll and Gyurizca again at 34 minutes, and this time Carroll's strike forced a save from Maroudas.
"We finished strong in that first half, with our possession percentage at just about 65 percent, but came out a little flat to start the second and it took us awhile to find our game after that," said Taylor.
Although the play was far from fluid in the early exchanges of the second period, the Bears created a couple of quality chances for themselves.
Rathe's left-footer went just off the bar after Collin Foote and Jacob Karbowski got things started. Minutes later, the visitors nearly grabbed an own goal when Abry and Rathe combined to knock one off a defender in the Lions box; the chance was alertly pulled from danger by second-half keeper Kevin Napoleon.
The Lions worked tirelessly for the equalizer, with Gyurizca getting free much more often on the flank. And Aiden Williams, Anthony Pineda, Carroll, and freshman Jack Hartman did their part to pressure the Bears with pace and a high work rate.
Then, however, Foreman measured his final touch and ended the Lions' hopes of getting even.
"We've got a lot of depth this season, and we don't seem to miss a beat when we bring others on, and that's a real advantage to have during a long season, and with the type of schedule we play," said Schmitz, who takes his club to the high profile Barrington Classic next week. "We still have some things to clean up, but I feel we'll be just fine if we continue to work hard."
St. Viator has a busy weekend ahead as it hosts Minnesota power Totino-Grace on Friday, then Prospect on Saturday morning.
"We got that first one out of the way, and I feel we'll see an entirely different team when we go out there on Friday," said Taylor.