Boys soccer: Wheeling puts up big win over Elk Grove
As a former star player under Willie Filian, Kevin Lennon knew the value of dead-ball opportunities while at Palatine and how many times those chances would lead to victory.
During the early stages of the 2019 boys soccer season Lennon, now the Wheeling coach, bemoaned the inability of his team in this important area of play but Tuesday night at Robert Haskell Stadium in Elk Grove, the Wildcats (3-2-0, 1-0-0) scored 4 of their 6 goals on dead balls.
Jason Rivas scored three, while teammate Luis Aviles registered four helpers in the 'Cats 6-1 Mid-Suburban East victory.
"We were just awful all throughout the preseason, and in our first week of the season, but tonight you saw us break through after spending so much time working on balls in the air and set pieces," said Lennon.
"Being strong in the air is something we just haven't been very good at," admitted Aviles, who provided pace, creativity and quality service all evening long from his spot along the outside in the 'Cats midfield.
"The coaching staff has really been on us to get better in the air, and until the last couple of games, the effort has not really been where it needed to be. The other day against Stevenson, and tonight, it was the best we've been this season."
Rivas stunned the home side two minutes into the contest after Grens keeper Sean Martinez came far off his line to punch an Aviles corner out of the area.
In doing so, the senior left his net open enough for Rivas to drive his 22-yard attempt just under the bar.
"It's always nice to get that first one, especially tonight when Elk Grove had most of the play until we put three in before the break," said Lennon.
"That was not the start we wanted tonight, but I thought we came back and played some very good soccer after that early goal," said Grens coach Alex Stavropoulos, whose team fell to 2-3-0 overall and 0-2-0 in the MSL.
"We were in position to get back even, but we missed our PK, and as the half went on (Wheeling) would dominate in the air and with their set piece opportunities, and that's where we struggled for most of the game."
Pablo Herrera doubled the Wildcats' advantage at 32 minutes with his one-timer off an Aviles helper then three minutes later, Rivas bagged his second when he ran onto a strong deep throw.
Angel Escobedo added another to the score line three minutes before the intermission off a Herrera free kick.
Sophomore Diego Negrete Meza, who along with Wilbur Lopez, Gerardo Perez-Perez and Drew Talens were impressive in the Grens' attack all throughout, unleashed a wicked left-footed missile in the 44th minute to give the Elk Grove faithful something to cheer about.
Rivas recorded his hat-trick at 47 minutes with his free kick, before Simon Stoyanov capped the night for the 'Cats with his half-bicycle from in close in the 54th minute.
"I know the guys are a little upset right now, but we told them they have to move on, get some rest and be ready for Barrington tomorrow night," said Stavropoulos.
Wheeling is at Fremd on Thursday at 7 p.m.