Broncos post 11th shutout to top Elk Grove
By Gary Larsen
After watching his side spend most of the game in attack-mode, Barrington keeper Pat Deroche had to stay on his toes against an Elk Grove team that found its attacking rhythm in the game’s final 10-15 minutes on Tuesday.
The junior keeper faced his biggest moments of the game in the 79th minute, first when the Grens’ Gio Garcia whipped in a freekick from the left edge of the penalty area. Deroche punched it out at the near post but the ball was sent back towards the goalmouth, where the Grens’ Manny Pillado had a point-blank scoring chance on his foot.
“He's very steady and there have been games when he has been brilliant," Barrington coach Scott Steib said of Deroche. "He was brilliant against Wheeling (in a 0-0 tie). He's as good a shot-stopper as I've seen in a long time."
Pillado hammered his shot from 8 yards out, but the Grens’ rock-solid central defender would probably like to have that shot back.
"(Pillado) got an open kick and he basically hit it towards me," Deroche said.
Deroche’s late save preserved the 1-0 MSL shutout win for Barrington (12-2-3, 5-1-1) against a team in Elk Grove (8-3-1, 5-2-1) that has been putting an average of 3 goals per game on the board.
But when you’re facing a defense that had 10 shutouts heading into Tuesday’s game, and boasted a paltry .5 goals-against average (now a .47 GAA), dangerous space is hard to come by.
Barrington had most of the ball on Tuesday and for 65 or 70 minutes the Broncos' backline had barely given the visiting Grens a sniff on goal. Tuesday marked the first time this season that Elk Grove has been held scoreless.
The Grens didn’t find room to operate until the game’s final 15 minutes, but their final push of attacking pressure came up empty against Deroche and his backline of Jason Frenk, Giles Phillips, Tyler Anderson, and Jamie Tausend.
"It's a really talented Barrington team and I've got to hand it to them,” Elk Grove coach Rob Shepard said. “We knew what we were getting into today and it took us a while to figure it out.
"But Elk Grove also has to understand that they're better than they sometimes give themselves credit for. They have to believe, and as a coach I have to try to instill it because this is a group that I would fight for all day."
Barrington came out attacking. The Broncos’ Andrew Simek reached the endline on the right side at 2 minutes but Grens keeper Alberto Centeno cut off his low serve at the near post. The Broncos’ Wesley Collins nearly found a shot six yards out a minute later, but Centeno was out to gather it before Collins got a good foot on it.
Barrington fell into a pattern of freekicks, long Tausend throw-ins, and shots in the run of play. Centeno saved a Logan Morris head shot at 8 minutes on a long cross from the right side, sent in by Anderson.
"I liked that we kept the pressure up on the backline and our backline was composed pretty much the whole time," Deroche said. "That's how it has normally been this year."
Most of the first half pitted Barrington’s pressure against Elk Grove’s countering ability, but neither side found the net. Elk Grove’s best scoring chance through 40 minutes came when defender Avery Chang sent a rainmaker in from 50 yards out that Deroche tipped over the crossbar.
"I really liked that we limited their chances tonight through the first hour, or hour and ten minutes,” Steib said. “I thought we moved the ball and dictated the game for a long time tonight. I'd just like to see more quality chances that get finished.”
For his part, Elk Grove junior Daniel Hadler would have liked to see his side come out more aggressively in the first half, and get their possession game working.
"We've got to hit that gear right off the bat," Hadler said. "Barrington is a big, physical team and we're always a little smaller, so we have to play to our advantage, and that's playing the ball on the ground. Some of our guys have the best touch in the MSL and we have to play around that. And when it gets crazy, and we start getting in the flow of the other team's game, we have to step back and get back into our game."
Barrington’s Griffin Claes earned a corner kick at 24 minutes that led to a wild series of headers popped up in front of the Elk Grove goal, before the Grens’ Sergio Aguirre finally cleared the ball out. Garcia spun and fired from distance at 29 minutes but Deroche easily handled the long one-hopper.
Phillips took a long shot for Barrington that was redirected on net by Jonathan Wilson at 31 minutes, but Centeno hit the turf to make the save. Morris and Connor Hennelly sent shots wide of frame before halftime.
Barrington’s best chance of the first half likely came at 35 minutes when Collins broke in deep on the right side near the endline and centered a pass that Wilson poked wide of the far post.
Wilson leads Barrington with 8 goals in a season in which goals have been hard to come by for a platoon of Barrington forwards.
"I think we just need to be more clinical in front of the goal,” Steib said. “We've been working on that and if you watch the game enough you know that kind of thing can come and go, so we're hoping to hit a hot streak at the right time. But I love the fact that we're in every game we play and we've had a chance to win every game we've played."
The game’s lone goal came roughly 50 minutes in on a Tausend throw-in from deep on the left side. The throw bounced near the post and Collins was credited with getting a touch on it before it crossed the goal line.
Shepard disputed whether Tausend's throw-in was touched by any field player, but the goal stood up.
The Broncos continued to apply pressure before the Grens mounted a late comeback effort. Garcia and Jonathan Arzeta both found a few shots from long-range that went for naught, and the two played a nice give-and-go that resulted in Garcia sending a shot wide of frame at 62 minutes.
The Grens earned a corner kick off of their pressure at 69 minutes and spent the game’s final 10 minutes pushing hard for an equalizing goal.
Shepard would have liked to see his side apply that urgency from the game’s outset.
"We moved some things around, which helped, but the sequencing, the possession, the runs -- we forced Barrington to respond to us for the first time all game," Shepard said.
“Sometimes they have to recognize that the hard work in practice has to carry over into games, and they have to come off the bus ready to play. When we've had success this year, we've been ready to play from the outset."
Shepard was pleased with the way defenders Arnold Aguilar, Pillado, and Hadler played in the face of Barrington’s pressure on Tuesday. After winning 8 consecutive games, the Grens tied Fremd and lost to Wheeling and Barrington in their last three games.
"You get to the middle of the season and this is by far the toughest stretch of teams we've played," Hadler said. "We just have to focus on staying together, and make sure we don't come out slow. We have to come out with the same energy we had when we were on a winning streak."
With the MSL East still up for grabs and Elk Grove trailing East leader Hersey by two points, the Grens have Buffalo Grove, Conant, and Rolling Meadows left to play this season.
Barrington sits a single point behind MSL West leader Fremd, which won 1-0 over Wheeling on Tuesday. Barrington has Fremd, Hersey, Schaumburg, and Hoffman Estates left to play in the conference.