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Coach: Peter Ginter
Eddie De La Cruz
Aaron Johnson So., M
Lucas Betts So., M
Anthony Pieroni Jr., D
Andre Milcent Jr., M
Jeff Rios Jr., F
Pedro Mendoza Jr., M
Gideon Karasek Jr., M
Dylon Jones Sr., D
Dan Torres Sr., D
Jesus Vergara Jr., D
Jonathan Cruz Sr., F
Rokas Dubinas Sr., M
Riad Perviz Jr., D
Mike Rogalski Jr., F
Sergio Rojas Jr., F
Mike Sommers So., M
Ricardo Santillan Fr., F
Collin Doherty So., M
Asmir Perviz So., GK
Joe Draus Jr., GK


Warriors draw on late Elmwood Park comeback


By Dave Owen

Willowbrook experienced a day of agonizing extremes Saturday.

Up 2-0 and controlling the flow of play with 10 minutes left, the Warriors saw visiting Elmwood Park rally for two goals in a three-minute span. As it turned out, a great goal-saving defensive play in the final minute by Dylan Jones was needed to preserve a 2-2 tie.

“Like our coach (Pete Ginter) said, we played a good 72 minutes and then took our foot off the gas,” Jones said. “I thought when we were playing well and focused we were pretty much unstoppable, and that’s why we were up 2-0.”

“They always say that 2-nil is the most dangerous lead in soccer,” Wilowbrook junior Mike Rogalski said. “I guess that’s true, but you have to look at the positives.”

There were plenty of those, starting with Rogalski’s extra effort at the offensive end that produced Willowbrook’s lead – and the end of a six-game scoreless streak for the Warriors’ offense.

Rogalski put the Warriors up 1-0 in the 23rd minute of the game, dribbling into the box and driving a shot off the diving Tiger goalkeeper’s hands and into the lower left corner of the net.

“I saw the defender making a pass, I intercepted it and I just dribbled and shot with my right foot,” Rogalski said. “The grass was wet so it kind of skipped, so that helped out.”

The Warriors went up 2-0 in the 13th minute of the second half thanks to another Rogalski drive to the net. He fought through two defenders, then after a battle for a loose ball, Lucas Betts lined a shot inside the left post for a 2-0 lead.

“I shielded the guy off on the throw-in and dribbled into the box,” Rogalski said. “The ball kind of hit around and Lucas Betts had a nice hit. He was in the right place at the right time.”

The only threat to the Warriors en route to their 2-0 lead came in the 29th minute of the first half, when an Elmwood Park corner kick was nicely struck directly high off the far post.

Meanwhile, the Warriors generated additional big chances in the 14th minute of the first half (Rogalski’s shot just wide off a Kristian Johansson cross) and eight minutes into the second half (a great diving one-handed save of Gideon Karasek’s header off a Rogalski corner kick).

“I thought we were moving the ball around nicely,” Ginter said. “We had some good passing combinations. We’re trying to stretch our width of the game and stretch their defense. I thought we got more shots off today. We had some scoring chances that just missed.”

Playing on the grass Ardmore Field on campus instead of the usual artificial turf of the stadium was no problem for the Warriors.

“We practice on this field every day so we might be a little better suited to it,” Rogalski said. “We possess the ball a little better and it’s easier to move around. That was one thing today, we possessed the ball better.”

Rogalski’s nice touch pass to Arkadiusz Szlachta breaking free down the middle with 22 minutes left in the match nearly made it 3-0, but for a sliding save and cover by the Elmwood Park keeper of Szlachta’s shot.

Two more Warrior chances followed (Karasek stopped on a tough angle shot near the end line, and Betts’ header over the net off a Rogalski corner kick), but the momentum would turn briefly but decisively.

Elmwood Park nearly broke through with 17 minutes left, when Willowbrook goalkeeper Asmir Perviz came out towards the top of the box to smother an initial open shot, then nicely blocked the rebound attempt.

But the Tigers’ next two chances would each pay off big.

Lukasz Mordarski’s nicely placed high 30-yard shot with 10 minutes left went over a leaping Perviz and just under the crossbar to make the score 2-1. Then less than two minutes later, a Tigers’ attack up left wing produced a cross to the middle and a rocket into the upper corner of the net for a 2-2 tie.

Standout Willowbrook sweeper Tito Cabral moved upfield on the attack after the tie and had two near finishes in quick succession.

His header attempt off a cross with six minutes left was broken up in a crowd by the Tigers’ keeper, and a rebound attempt by Aaron Johnson was deflected wide. Off the ensuing corner kick, Cabral point blank header on goal was again stopped.

“I thought Tito did a nice job in the back, and he almost scored a couple of times on headers,” Ginter said. “He had a little injury in practice yesterday and was playing hurt, but he didn’t show it.

“Our objective was to win, and that’s why he pushed up. A little luck and he would have scored, but he played very well today.”

While Cabral created chances, so did Elmwood Park. Perviz had to leap to deflect a 22-yard shot over the crossbar with four minutes left. Then in the final minute, a Tigers’ attack resulted in a chip over a charging Perviz towards the net. But defender Jones raced back to save the day by sweeping the potential game-winning shot off the line.

“I saw my keeper (Perviz) go out,” Jones said, “and I knew that he was go 100 percent to that play so I had to cover the middle. The ball was in the air long enough for me to get under it and clear it out.

“He made a great save off the line,” Ginter said of Jones, “and even Asmir made a good save. He got caught up a little bit on a long shot on one of those goals, but there was another where he didn’t get caught and pushed the ball over the crossbar. He’s a good keeper. He’s only a sophomore, and we’re looking forward to him in the next couple of years.”

The future looks bright for the Warriors, as Jones, Cabral and Dan Torres were the lone senior starters on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to the next couple of years,” Ginter said. “We’re going to have a lot of these kids, and our sophomore team is having a lot of success. We kept a lot of good players down at that level so they could enjoy some success and bring that winning attitude up to varsity next year.

“We’ll have a lot more depth the next couple of years, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
Johansson’s return from injury has already fortified the Warriors’ depth.

“He had a severe groin injury and had surgery last year,” Ginter said, “so he kind of gradually worked into the lineup. He subbed a lot in the beginning but now he’s pretty much starting at the outside mid position. He gives us good versatility – he can play right and left midfield equally well, and then I can plug him in as a holding or defensive mid if necessary. He’s great to have on the team.”

Despite the disappointing final minutes on Saturday, the Warriors hope for better things the rest of this season as well.

“We just need to go back to practice, and make sure we play the whole game and finish out strong,” Jones said.

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