Huskies post shutout win over Whitney Young
By Dave Owen
One of the early season disappointments of 2012 became a new high water mark this fall for Oak Park and River Forest.
Avenging their 3-1 home loss to Whitney Young last season, the Huskies scored twice in the last 16:04 of play on Thursday to earn their first shutout of 2013 with a 2-0 victory.
“It’s nice to get a shutout,” OPRF coach Paul Wright said, “and this helps us big time with seeding because they’re a quality city opponent. They’re usually in our sectional, so this will definitely help push us in the right direction to where we want to be.”
“We didn’t beat them last year and we got sent to the Morton regional, one of the hardest ones,” Huskies senior Tim Huettel said. “So this was a big game for us. It’ll definitely help us for the regionals.”
Huettel was a key factor in both Huskies’ goals, as OPRF (2-0-2) turned narrow misses in the first half into timely finishes down the stretch.
Great second effort by the 5-foot-8 Huettel generated the go-ahead score. Knocked to the ground at the left side of the box, he regained his feet and sent a cross to an open Quinn Neuman for an 18-yard drive into the lower left corner of the net and a 1-0 OPRF lead.
“I think their right back tried to pass it back,” Huettel said, “and I beat the defender to it, cut it back inside and we both tripped over each others’ legs.
“I got up and saw the center ‘d’ kind of pushed into the middle a little bit, our forward Quinn Neuman had gotten behind him. I just laid it off to him and he had a nice finish past the goalie.”
The goal was a deserved reward for Neuman’s strong effort in a reserve role.
“Every game we give a Man of the Match,” Wright said, “and we talked about giving it to Quinn Neuman up on top. Not because he got the goal, but coming off the bench his hustle and pressure created some opportunities. And he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Huettel continued to test the Whitney Young defense, driving an 18-yard direct kick just over the crossbar with 14:10 left. Then after the visitors just missed tying the game with 10:50 to play on a point-blank header attempt just wide, Huettel removed any doubt about the outcome.
After Harry Engoren’s initial corner kick cross was cleared from the crease, Huettel pounced on the loose ball and powered a low 15-yard blast past a diving Young keeper and inside the right post.
“Harry Engoren had a great corner,” Huettel said. “We set up on the front of the post, and my job is to come up top.
“I kind of lost my man, and just sat up there. It came out, I just got it through all the traffic and it went under the goalkeeper. He kind of came out, and I put it to his left and under him.”
Huettel’s hustle on both goals left an impression on more than the scoreboard.
“Tim Huettel getting his first goal of the season – he’s been mugged and pushed around each way, but he’s created goal-scoring opportunities for himself and others and really hadn’t found the back of the net,” Wright said. “It was really nice he was able to get one, sort of get that monkey off his back and take care of what he needs to take care of.”
The fast finish by the Huskies followed an equally impressive but frustrating start to the night.
OPRF’s 4-1 first half edge in corner kicks produced many good chances. In the eighth minute, Evan Kindler headed an Engoren corner kick off the crossbar. Then just over a minute later Kindler sent a 15-yard angle shot just wide of the right post.
“Evan Kindler got up the wing like seven or eight times to create opportunities and did a really nice job,” Huettel said.
Huettel himself had a low 20-yard liner stopped with 26:50 left in the first half. Kirk Svensson later headed an Engoren corner kick wide, and 1:20 before halftime, Engoren’s high 25-yard shot required a reaching save by the Young netminder.
“The first 25 minutes we felt was the best soccer we’ve played,” Wright said.
But OPRF goalkeeper Sam Lisak had to make a nice diving save of his own late in the first half, as the 0-0 halftime score and Young’s own offensive push tempered the Huskies’ enthusiasm.
“We slowly felt them sneaking back into the game a little bit, then in the second half we had some better scoring opportunities,” Wright said. “They countered us pretty well in some aspects.
“We had a lot of trouble just clearing the ball out and trying to build the play out of the back we made some silly mistakes that we almost got punished on. But they kept battling more and more as the game went on.”
OPRF defender Stevie Samuels made a nice steal on a Young attack up the right wing three minutes into the second half.
Then with 35:40 on the clock, Mavin Gill and Jesse Kusimba each blocked shots to repel a Young corner kick threat with 35:40 left to play.
Gill and Kusimba’s back-to-back plays came moments after Huskies’ defender Bryndon Bush had blocked a threatening shot attempt out of bounds to set up the corner kick.
Lisak dove to cover a deflected shot with 17:05 to go to retain the 0-0 tie, which didn’t last long thanks to Huettel and the OPRF offense.
“I try to play with a lot of energy, high pressure, putting shots on goal,” Huettel said. “And I rely a lot on my teammates to push up the field when I press.
“I thought there were some great through balls from our center mids finding the open space in the middle.”
The push produced two late goals and other great chances. Noah Fluharty sent a flying header attempt just wide and Seamus Blaha had a shot deflected just wide of the net off a Neuman pass.
With a 2-0 lead, the OPRF defense stood tall to preserve the shutout.
Fluharty and Gill each had headers to clear a Young corner kick out of danger with 4:50 left, then a late Young flurry in the box in the final seconds produced a blocked shot by Svensson and a leaping catch by Lisak of a chip into a sea of players in the box.
That shutout-clinching stand and the late offensive surge combined to produce a big finish for the Huskies.
“The high pressure really made the difference,” Huettel said. “We worked on that last game and didn’t quite have it. The defense did a great job winning punts and goal kicks and pushing it up the field for us to pressure them. We did a great job getting up the wings and getting in the space.”