Lancers dominate midfield in victory over Falcons
By Curt Herron
Lake Park's players seemed a bit disorganized as they lined up for a post-match card presentation in which Joe Keane was requesting a homecoming date.
And that was a far cry from how the team had worked together throughout their DuPage Valley Conference match with Wheaton North on Tuesday in Roselle.
The Lancers were the model of efficiency in the middle of the field and that resulted in a variety of good scoring opportunities against the Falcons.
And while the hosts showed that they were better at passing the ball around than in displaying cards, the results turned out positive in both regards.
Lake Park jumped out to a 3-0 advantage early in the final half and went to claim a 4-1 victory over North in its initial DVC match on its home field.
Coach Anthony Passi's squad seems to be getting more comfortable playing on the grass at Ralph Krupke field after spending more time practicing there.
Mike Catalano had a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Lancers while Giovanni Ciaccio and Oliver Horgan each contributed a goal and an assist.
"I always say that games are won or lost in the midfield and I think we won the battle in the midfield," said Passi, whose squad improved to 5-1-2 overall.
"By winning the ball out of the midfield we created a lot of opportunities to go forward, whether it was playing behind the defense, playing the ball wide or turning the corner.
"The opportunities were there but we're a pass away or a shot away from maybe putting teams away earlier. We have to do a better job of getting into the final third and finishing."
One of the things that the Lancers coach has already seen in his team's initial two DVC matches is the intensity of the new brand of competition.
"I think there's moments in the game where we're looking to catch our breath, and my kids have to learn that you can't catch your breath in the DVC," Passi said.
"These teams are physical and they're very technical and very tactical. There's just no let up and our kids are going to learn that very quickly."
Wheaton North (2-6-1, 0-2-1) responded to a rough start by getting a goal from Connor Ritchie midway through the final half to provide some drama.
But all too often, Tim McEvilly's Falcons found themselves being on the defensive as they had to clear away plenty of good Lancers scoring chances.
"They're play was outstanding, especially in the first 40 minutes, when they just took it to us," McEvilly said. "Number 10 (Catalano) is so strong in the center midfield and they have a couple of talented kids there.
"They were winning every single ball in the air and as they were stringing passes together, we just kept on falling and and falling back and we weren't putting any pressure on the ball and it gave them more confidence.
"I thought that we did a better job in the second half trying to find that center three that they play with and reduce that efficiency. But we just didn't have it tonight."
While the Falcon coach was impressed with Lake Park's play, he also felt that his squad made things a little too easy for the hosts.
"There's two things that allow you to distribute the ball well," McEvilly said. "Number one, the other team isn't possessing well, and we weren't stringing passes together.
"And number two, you don't put pressure on the ball and we weren't putting pressure on the ball. They were stringing things together but we were offering all of the opportunity to gain that confidence.
"Until the last two games, we were the ones putting passes together and we can possess against anybody. But we're not a big team and if we give people space, that's when we're in trouble."
Even though his squad allowed four goals, McEvilly was pleased with the work of his backline, which did its best against the pressure.
The Lancers began applying the heat right away as Kris Lopez sent in a corner and his subsequent try was stopped by keeper Alex Jiskra.
After keeper Zach Czesak hauled in a long free kick from Ethan Tyra, Lopez and Catalano responded with good chances which were denied.
Lake Park moved in front for good in the 15th minute when Catalano found Ciaccio, who connected from close-range to make it a 1-0 match.
There was a long lull in chances after Catalano's header was stopped before Horgan scored off of a pass from Ciaccio in the 34th minute.
Wheaton North had one more good scoring chance during the final minutes of the opening half but Jason Szumski's attempt was thwarted.
"Lately we haven't been clicking too much but today we came out with a focused attitude," senior Anthony Devereux said. "The midfield definitely combined a lot, we were getting wide a lot and we had good communication from our center backs.
"I'm happy with the chemistry on our team. We have two new Academy players and we've been clicking a lot on turf and out here we're starting to get it since we know how to play. We have a close bond and chemistry wins and loses games."
Following the break, the hosts struck again in the 49th minute when Lopez headed a ball to Catalano, who headed it in for the goal.
Shortly after Lopez was denied on a liner, Jeremy Stapleton broke up a try by Ciaccio and Cooper Winckler fired in a long free kick.
Not long before the half's midpoint, Dean Norton cleared a loose ball off a Lopez corner and Stapleton knocked away another threat.
"Any time that the ball is not by me, it's a good time," Czesak said. "We've been working on getting the spot ball in the middle in practices. Coach emphasizes that and we really did that today and were able to put them away.
"Last year our finishing wasn't too great but we came out in the first four games this year and scored 19 goals and our backline is looking good. I like our brotherhood. We're all close friends since we've played together."
The Falcons finally connected in the 61st minute after Norton created a corner on which Winckler found Ritchie in front for a header.
In the final quarter hour, Norton deflected a Ciaccio corner and then Lorenzo Mariani was stopped following another corner kick.
Zach Oslund halted an effort from Ciaccio, who a bit later was thwarted by a kick save by the Falcon keeper on another close try.
Lake Park closed out the scoring in the 78th minute when Horgan sent a pass to Catalano, whose shot just rolled inside of the post.
"Our goal is to come in to the DVC as the underdogs but to win it like we did last year when we tied in the Upstate Eight," senior Kevin Coria said. "I really liked how our defense played the ball and how the midfielders kept looking wide.
"We need to start doing that more in order to find more spot balls in the middle. I'm encouraged by how we talk on our team and how we react after getting scored on by keeping our heads up. We all get along together and I love our chemistry."
The Lancers play in the Prairie Ridge Invite this weekend while the Falcons return to action next Tuesday when they host Glenbard East.