152 W. Biesterfield Road,
Elk Grove Village
Phone 847.956.1818
Fax 847.956.4848

Coach: Jason Franco
Assistant coaches:
Tim Harte, Dan Harte, Mark Davis
Jeff Melone
Marcus Williams Sr., GK
Patryk Openchowski Sr., GK
Bobby Wozniak Sr., D
Tyler Block Sr., F
Chase Hermanson Jr., F
Ben Hyde So., M
Nathan Marasigan Sr., D
Joey Connolly Jr., F
Victor Moskal Sr., M
Dino Kandalepas Sr., F
Matt Myers Jr., M
Matt Moglia Jr., M
Ejike Okpa Sr., F
Kyle Brown Sr., D
Griffin Wooley Sr., D
Kevin Sindewald Fr., M
Isaiah Jimenez Sr., F
Branden Dos Santos Sr., D
Bianca Madonia Manager
Nicole Lorenz Manager


Cougars settle for a draw against rival Grens


By Mike Garofola

Conant has caused a bit of trouble this season for some of the big clubs in the Mid Suburban League.

The Cougars put the only conference defeat of the year on MSL West champion Barrington in late September then took MSL East challenger Hersey to the brink before a heart-breaking game-winner dashed their hopes in the 78th minute.

So it comes as no surprise that on Tuesday night, the Cougars broke the hearts of another top dog when it drew 2-2 with Elk Grove in Hoffman Estates, all but ending the latter's league dreams.

The Grens (9-3-2, 6-2-2, 20 points) now must look for some help from others in the final days if it hopes to leap frog over both Wheeling and Hersey for the division title.

"I am not sure why we do so well against the top clubs in the conference, then struggle against those we are equal to, but whatever the reason, I am very proud of our effort, and overall play on both sides of the ball (which) we needed, in order to draw with one of the best in the MSL this season," said Cougars manager Jason Franco.

This was also the night when these two sides play in the annual Crosstown Classic, a match between two long-time rivals who are also this close with their boundaries.

Most of their players are on the same house league and then club teams as youths before they split up and going their seperate ways when they are off to high school.

Tradition also says players run a clinic for younger players in and around the two schools, and Tuesday night was no different, as a big crowd turned out to participate in the clinic, and other pre-game festivities, before this 'darby' kicked off.

After 100 minutes failed to produce an eventual winner to hoist the traveling trophy, both clubs went through a PK shootout to decide who will hold the trophy for the next year.

And after going a perfect 5-for-5 in spot-kicks, with Cougars keeper Patryk Openchowski driving in the winner, the home side lifted the trophy.

"It was a great atmosphere, with a big crowd, with lots of younger fans on hand, and Jason's guys ran a terrific clinic, but I just wish we could have put a solid 80 minutes of soccer together tonight," said a disappointed Rob Shepard, the Grens manager.

"This was a game that we needed (3) points in order to stay within shouting distance of both Hersey and Wheeling," added Shepard, who squad hosts Rolling Meadows in its final match.

Hersey drew 0-0 with Barrington to give it 22 points in the table, with one match remaining against Buffalo Grove. Wheeling might be in the best shape of all three sides after beating Hoffman Estates 6-1 to get to 22 points, with Palatine up next and then Buffalo Grove on Friday in its season finale.

"I thought we came out and played well, especially up to our first goal from (Jonathon) Arzeta late in the first half, but I don't know how or why we lost our focus after they got even with us, and that seems to be our problem of late, because we never got back to where we were playing in that first half," suggested Grens senior striker, David Bahena.

Arzeta broke the single season goal-scoring record for the program with his 15th in the 36th minute for the lone goal of the first period.

But the Grens advantage wouldn't last for long when two minutes after intermission, Tyler Block unloaded a right-footed cracker from just outside the box.

Then he watched as the ball bounced around and off of several players - as if it were on a pinball machine - before redirecting past a helpless Grens keeper, Alberto Centeno, who had no chance of stopping this one.

"It was a little lucky, but it was a great idea and shot that Tyler took, and it really got us going after that," said backliner Branden Dos Santos, who was one of 13 seniors who were honored at the break by Franco, his assistant, Tim Harte, and the school.

"We came in without Victor Moskal (concussion) and Joey Connolly (calf) and those are two real important guys for us, but we had guys like (Ben) Hyde and Ejike (Okpa) really step up tonight to help us get a real positive result."

Dos Santos, who hits a very good left-footed freekick for the Cougars, put another one in play just after the hosts equalized, finding Dino Kandalepas on the other end to force Centeno to save.

Chase Hermanson then sprayed his shot just wide, and with the home side now winning most of the first and second balls, the visiting Grens found it difficult to possess and knock the ball around as they do so well.

"Conant plays direct, and we like to possess and be technical, and (they) forced us to get away from what we do, and that was most of the story in the second half, except when we played through Gio (Garcia), Arzeta and others," said Shepard.

Sergio Aguirre and Arzeta worked a nice one-two and nearly found Bahena in close, but the Cougars backline collapsed quickly enough to stop that opportunity.

Bahena came through on the left side, and after getting space and time, veered his shot just wide of the back post at 48 minutes.

The Grens best chance came when Arzeta forced a corner - then watched when Bahenas' point-blank smash hit several on the way in before going out.

Six minutes later, the Grens snatched the lead out of nowhere when Garcia carried into the area before unleashing a wicked 25-yarder, which rendered Openchowski a spectator as the advantage moved to 2-1 Elk Grove in the 59th minute.

However, on this night, the Cougars wouldn't let the big crowd down, and moments later, they would fire back to get level once again when Dos Santos, once again, initiating a Hermanson strike.

"Chase and I have just seem to be connected on these set pieces, so I wasn't surprised when he did something with it," offered Dos Santos, who sent in another quality ball into the mix - in which his junior teammate surprised the Grens with a sensational half bicycle volley past Centeno from 15 yards - bringing the big crowd off its seats.

The senior, along with his backline mates Griffin Wooley, Nathan Marasigan and Matt Myers, did their best to keep the Grens far away from their keeper, and with Arzeta, Aguirre, Bahena and Carlos Gomez filtering in and out, that wasn't always easy.

Openchowski, in fact, pulled a sure goal out of the net at 85 minutes off a filthy blast from Aguirre, and despite having the run of play in the second extra session, the Cougars were not able to pry open the Grens, and Centeno.

Also during the final OT, Avery Chang administered a nice tackle on Hermanson to stop a potential dangerous chance in the 94th minute.

"I don't know how Patryk made that stop, but I am not sure many keepers would have in that same situation," said Franco afterwards.

The PK 'friendly" saw Bahena, Garcia, Arzeta and Manny Pillado convert their first four, while Kandalepas, Hermanson, Dos Santos and Matt Moglia doing the same for the homeside.

The fifth round opened with Openchowski turning around a Ivan Corona spot-kick to set up more heroics from the senior keeper, who stepped up and drilled his attempt through Centeno.

"I don't know if it was the fact we were playing guys we've known and played forever, or the big crowd, and clinic beforehand, but it was a great night of soccer all the way around, and a lot of fun," said Dos Santos, who played the role of soccer ambassador with class and dignity.


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