Bison edged by Broncos on last-minute penalty
By Curt Herron
After 17 of the initial 23 Mid Suburban League matches were decided by a goal or less and almost a third went to extra time, one thing was clear.
The difference between winners and losers was going to be very slight on any given day and the outcome might just come down to who caught a break.
Such was the case at Barrington Community stadium on Tuesday when two squads who had each posted four shutouts in their last five outings met up.
The host Broncos and visiting Buffalo Grove appeared to be on the verge of overtime play following 79 minutes of another strong defensive effort.
But just as the sides were starting to prepare for additional action, Barrington came up with a fortunate call which proved to be the difference.
With just 46 seconds left, Austin Grzebieniak drove into the box and met up with a Bison defender, who fell down and had the ball hit off of him.
Despite a protest from the Buffalo Grove bench due to the circumstances, the referee ruled a hand ball in the box and awarded the hosts a penalty.
Logan Morris promptly connected and Barrington ran out the remaining time to claim a 1-0 victory over the Bison for its ninth shutout of the year.
The win was a critical one for the Broncos (10-1-3), who are battling it out with Fremd and Schaumburg for the top position in the West Division.
Barrington (3-0-1, 10) has the early lead while the Vikings (3-1-1, 10) and Saxons (3-2-0, 9) are right behind in the fight for an MSL Cup berth.
Close matches have been all too common for both squads so far this year. It was the tenth time a Barrington result was decided by a goal or less.
Meanwhile, the Bison (3-4-4, 1-2-2) just missed out on their fourth MSL overtime match. Buffalo Grove has played three scoreless draws thus far.
"I really liked our team defense tonight," Broncos coach Scott Steib said. "I really thought that Buffalo Grove had a couple of good chances. But we have a five- or six-guy group back there who do a good job of limiting teams.
"One of our best central defenders, Shawn Owen, has been hurt for a week, and in the adjustment with him out, Giles Phillips, who's been a defensive mid, has gone there. He's a smart kid and you can tell that he's grown up with the game.
"Tyler Anderson has been really steady defensively. Jason Frenk, Jamie Tausend and Jack Harrington have also been out there. We gave up three in 20 minutes to Antioch, but outside of that, there haven't been a lot of chances for our opponents."
Although the Broncos are struggling like many others to connect, Steib likes what this group brings to the table, especially with its character.
"I've never spent so much time working on going forward," Steib said. "We have a rotation of seven forwards who are all playing. So if you have told me at the onset that we'd be 10-1-3 now, I would have said that it sounded good.
"This group of kids has set out to do things character-wise. They told me at our team meeting for goal-setting that they were going to be the cleanest team we've ever had in terms of drugs and alcohol, and I thought that was really cool.
"There are just some really good, whole-hearted kids on this team who are good leaders, and that's awesome. The character of this team is phenomenal and I've really enjoyed working with them every day."
Like Barrington, Buffalo Grove has struggled to find the net, scoring just three times in its last seven outings, five of which were shutouts.
The Bison had some good chances, especially early on, and had one of them gone in it might have changed the misfortune that affected them later.
"I told my team that we had some opportunities to put goals away and we didn't," Bison coach Rick Carlson said. "We can focus on the official or we can can focus on what we can control and that's us finishing when we had opportunities.
"Out of 11 games, this was virtually our sixth tie and seventh shutout. Barrington is a good team and they controlled the ball and had the run of the game. But that doesn't mean that we didn't generate enough opportunities to score.
"It came down to a call at the end of the game and unfortunately you can't put yourself in a situation like that."
Carlson is hopeful that if his squad continues to play well defensively that they will eventually be able to generate a little more offense.
"I don't think that anyone who's played us this year wants to play us again," Carlson said. "We've done a good job of keeping the scores down and putting pressure on teams but we just haven't been able to get things in the back of the net."
The Bison defense featured Allan Santiaguillo and Hans Haller at the center backs while Sean King and Connor Reid were the outside backs.
Barrington had a few good chances in the early going, beginning with a header from Morris that first-half keeper Ricardo Valencia secured.
Then Griffin Claes sent in a corner kick and Giles Phillips headed a try off the crossbar and Morris did the same thing on a rebound effort.
A few minutes later, Pat Deroche stopped a shot by Nick Pilli, Claes was denied and Haller's long free kick led to a Daniel Ramirez header.
The Bison kept at it as Ramirez had a try deflected and made a shot that Jason Frenk saved before Hector Herrera sent one in toward Deroche.
As the opening half wound down, Jonathan Wilson found Morris but his liner was thwarted and then Ryan Drum was turned away on the other end.
Early in the final half, King headed away a ball in front of the Bison net and new keeper Dillon Eaton stopped a liner from Connor Hennelly.
In the final 10 minutes of the match, Jamie Tausend sent in a long free kick that was halted by Eaton, who thwarted another try a bit later.
With about five minutes remaining, Zach Masciopinto sent a pass inside to Ramirez, but his header attempt was stopped by the Broncos keeper.
That set the table for the final drama, which began when Phillips drove downfield before passing off to Grzebieniak prior to the key ruling.
"Having a strong defensive team helps us because we're not the strongest offensively, even though we can create some chances and score goals," Phillips said. "It's good getting three points since you want to get three points as often as you can.
"Things are looking good and we're hoping to continue it. I like our chemistry, we have good team chemistry. A lot of the kids have played together for a long time so the chemistry is really good. The main thing we have to do is finish our chances."
Both squads return to conference action on Thursday. The Bison will play host to Rolling Meadows while the Broncos will travel to Conant.