Knights settle for a scoreless draw with Hawks
By Jonah Rosenblum
If only field goals counted for points on the soccer field.
If so, Prospect would have easily won its first game.
Instead, the Knights came painstakingly close, tying Hoffman Estates, 0-0, on Tuesday night in a Mid Suburban League match in Mount Prospect.
"It's all mental at this point," Prospect coach Kurt Trenkle said. "It's been so long since the first game since we put more than two in the net in any game. We've gone stretches without scoring. It really is just mental."
The Knights (0-11-2, 0-6-2) were most dominant in the second period, out-shooting the Hawks 16-1. Of those 16 shots, however, only four were on net, with two rolling right to the keeper.
"At times, we were just shooting to shoot and trying to put it in, but we were rushing too much," Prospect's Alex Whiteman said.
Extra time featured a few more riveting chances for both teams, as the Hawks very nearly scored off a Knights' defensive mistake.
Spying a loose ball just outside of the box, the Prospect defender tried to send a diving header back to his keeper. Instead, Hoffman Estates sophomore midfielder Rezmi Ahmeti came up with the loose ball, and after pushing it left past the keeper, shot it into the side netting.
Whiteman had the best chances of the second overtime, first sending a high shot through the uprights.
Shortly thereafter, he took a powerful boot from goalkeeper Jack Cooney, which somehow made it through Hoffman Estates' defense, and ended up with a one-on-one with the Hawks' Christian Peralta. The Hoffman Estates keeper was able to preserve the tie with a dramatic diving save.
"I beat the first guy to the ball and then the second guy and I put in the corner, and the goalie made a fantastic save," Whiteman said.
The Knights dominated from the outset, drawing a pair of corners in the first two minutes and a half. Erick Karkut nearly found Whiteman on the soccer equivalent of a "go route" shortly thereafter, but the ball bounced just long to a waiting Peralta.
Whiteman had a beautiful juke left in the seventh minute but his shot went into the left side netting. In the 14th minute, the Knights sent an attempted cross off the right post and a shot off the crossbar of the field goal uprights, looming just behind the net.
A rare error from a pressed defense in the 26th minute nearly led to a Prospect goal. Hoffman Estates sent a ball across the middle of the field that Ross LaCamera was able to steal but his shot went wide right.
Later, a Hawks defender's inability to handle a chest-high ball led to another Knights chance that went over the drawn-out keeper — but also over the net.
With eight minutes remaining in the half, Prospect had another golden opportunity, but Peralta was able to dive and deflect the ball out of bounds.
The Hawks' defense continued to crack in the final minutes as their disorder setting up for a Knights' free kick led to a chance that was deflected just high off of the field goal crossbar.
The second half featured even more Prospect chances, but fewer quality ones. The more shots the Knights took, the farther off the net they got.
"It's probably a little overcorrection from what we have been doing," Trenkle said. "One of our main faults these past few weeks is that we haven't taken the shots unless it was perfect, and if you don't shoot, you don't score, so I would rather they take these shots and then do what they need to do to put in on net."
Throughout the second half, Hoffman Estates seemed unable to stop Prospect's barrage of shots. The Knights relentlessly pressured the Hawks on offense, making every clear difficult and ensuring that the ball rarely crossed midfield.
Trenkle said that Sean O'Carroll played a key role in the Knights' offensive pressure.
They nearly were rewarded in the 72nd minute, but their goal was waved off due to an offsides flag.
"In the second half, they were playing the feet, they were putting through balls, and they were really building up the offense," Trenkle said. "It wasn't perfect obviously. We got out of shape. We got countered a lot, but I think that was probably the best build-up half of playing simple ball that we've had in a long time."
Only some valiant defensive plays from junior defender Isaiah Mireles kept the Knights' second-half shot count from reaching even higher than 16.
"We usually like to communicate a lot," Mireles said. "So if someone else wants to push up, I switch in and move in for them and they keep their pressure and we just keep moving like that. We have like a diamond, so if someone goes up, we just move in for him."
Mireles came up with one of his signature defensive plays early in the second, when Whiteman tried to get by him with a fake, but Mireles wasn't fooled, pushing it away.
Less than a minute after, he crumpled to the ground in what would have been a crushing loss for the Hoffman Estates defense. Fortunately for the Hawks, he stayed on.
"They just ran through my ankle and it just hurt," Mireles said. "He stepped right into my ankle. It's pretty swollen now. I don't want to leave them like that. I feel terrible when I do that."
Peralta finished with 13 saves as the Knights out-shot the Hawks, 32-4.
At the end of the day, the Knights had to be content with a match well-fought — and one won on the pitch, if not on the scoreboard.
"I think we really did an excellent job for about 60 minutes of the game putting people in the opportunities to score and that very last piece is the piece where it falls apart," Trenkle said.
"The score could have easily been three, four. We had that many really good open looks at the goal. The guys just need to settle down."
And Whiteman was left thinking about a missed chance or two.
"Probably the header in the six-yard box, the one that I put wide, that's the one I'm thinking about right now," Whiteman said.