Boys soccer: Wheaton North clips Hoffman Estates
It was a battle of the birds when visiting Wheaton North faced Hoffman Estates Tuesday night in nonconference boys soccer action.
The first half was pretty much of a defensive struggle from start to finish as the Falcons were unable to get much offense going against the stubborn defense of the host Hawks.
But with a quick strike early in the second half and some solid defense the rest of the way, Wheaton North (3-0-1) remained undefeated early in the 2021 season with a narrow 1-0 victory.
Wheaton North junior Max Ricelli almost gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead when his long-range shot hit the left post with 32:30 to play.
Then Hoffman Estates (1-3-1) suffered a defensive breakdown with 31:22 to play, and the Falcons made the Hawks pay for their mistake.
From deep in the right corner, Ricelli found senior teammate Diego Molina-Soberanis wide open for an easy close-range goal as the Falcons' offense finally hit pay dirt after a long offensive drought from both teams.
"That goal is something we've been trying to work on the last four years, and I'm super-impressed with Diego getting in that spot," said Wheaton North coach Rob Stassen, whose team was without starting goalkeeper Sam Wakeman.
"We've been working on it in practice and to see them do it in a game was impressive."
The Hawks had a few golden opportunities to tie the game in the second half, but a free kick by Favour Justice sailed over the net from 13 yards out with 15:30 remaining.
"The first 20 minutes we had them on their heals and for some reason we stopped passing and started to do more individually," said Hoffman Estates coach Sean Armstrong. "We showed a lot of heart and intensity in the last 20 minutes, we had two or three headers that went over the net, and we had some good looks."
With a light rain falling to start the game, Hoffman Estates turned away a free kick by Wheaton North senior Kevin Ramirez as Hawks goalkeeper Mason Trinco and Falcons goalkeeper Peter Tiesman were flawless for the first 40 minutes.
The best scoring opportunity of the first half came when Wheaton North sophomore Max Martinez missed wide left on a rebounded shot attempt 9:01 before the intermission.
The Falcons had a slight upper hand in the first half with the ball in the Hawks' defensive end of the field for more time. But neither team could really mount any serious scoring threats heading into the second half.
"Our defense knew they had to protect Peter, and the last three minutes were a little bit dangerous," added Stassen. "Once we settled into the game they gained their composure and it was the team performance we needed."
The Falcons had another great scoring chance with 9:55 left, but Molina-Soberanis' shot from the left wing sailed too high.
"So far this season we lost to Barrington and Wheaton North 1-0," Armstrong said. "Right now is about identity, building, and sustaining, and hopefully we will learn from this."