Bison, Pirates kick of MSL play with scoreless draw
By Curt Herron
If you like to watch teams scoring on great chances, Tuesday's Mid suburban League opener between Buffalo Grove and Palatine wasn't the place to be.
But if good defensive play is more your style, then Palatine's Chic Anderson stadium was an ideal setting for just that type of a performance.
The Bison and Pirates did their very best to frustrate each other throughout the full 80 minutes of regulation play.
While some of the best opportunities came during two 10-minute overtime periods, it still didn't result in any scoring.
Not surprisingly, when all was said and done on the warm evening in Palatine, the sides settled for a scoreless draw.
In a rematch of last year's MSL Cup championship, which the Pirates won on penalties, the two sides put up another spirited fight.
Whether they can end up in that same spot later this year figured to be tough since each side graduated so many fine performers.
However, based on early indications, it would seem to be unwise to count out the squads coached by Rick Carlson and Willie Filian.
The Pirates haven't allowed a goal in their initial four matches while the Bison posted their third shutout in the last four outings.
Palatine (3-0-1, 0-0-1) bounced back from a slow start to apply much of the pressure that there was during the final hour of play.
But Buffalo Grove (2-2-2, 0-0-1) held off the hosts and countered with some good threats of its own as play began to wind down.
After falling to Huntley on Saturday, Carlson was pleased with his team's performance in securing a draw against the Pirates.
"In just about every game we've improved and a lot of that comes down to our aggressiveness, playing hard and playing physical," Carlson said. "I know that this Palatine side has not lost yet and they are going to be a strong team this year.
"We had some opportunities and I thought that we could have put them away, but we didn't. Maybe it's not a win, but I don't think that we can walk away from here disappointed."
The Bison boss is pleased by how well this year's group of unheralded players has been coming together to make its own mark.
"We had a lot of good players last year and people had kind of put some of them on a pedestal," Carlson said. "This year there aren't those expectations and kids are working hard and they're going to earn everything that they get.
"I really like the way that they get along and the camaraderie. They have positive attitudes, are willing to work hard, they'll play a role and are willing to do whatever needs to be done."
And one of the things that Buffalo Grove looks like it will be able to hang its hat on is its defense, led by Allan Santiaguillo.
"Allan is a three-year varsity starter for us and is an unbelievable talent and has been one of our best players," Carlson said. "He's not 100 percent, but he continues to make play after play. He hardly ever has a bad touch or makes a bad decision.
"Hans (Haller) is playing his first varsity season, and he's only a sophomore. He's a big kid and the both work really well together and are athletic and they really control the back for us."
On the other side of the field, Filian counters with a one-two punch on defense that any team in the state would like to have.
With Kyle Clancy shutting everything down and keeper Kyle Leber directing things, the Pirates will be tough to score against.
"It starts with the Kyles," Filian said. "They have so many games under their belts. Kyle Leber is the vocal guy for us and at halftime he already had all of the bases covered about what we were doing wrong.
"Kyle Clancy is as solid as a defender as you're going to see. He's a skillful player but he's willing to do things to fit our style and it all starts with him. As far as his organization of the game, I think that he's a bona fide all-state candidate."
Joining the Kyles in the back are a rotation of players which includes Kevin Burke, Evan Braun, Brian Mars and Brennan Harding.
The hall of fame Pirate mentor likes this year's group and hopes that they can once again make a run in a competitive MSL race.
"We're hoping to be in the mix again," Filian said. "The best thing that I like about these kids is that they're buying into the way that we play. A lot of them could play a more finesse game but they're willing to play the type of style we're looking to play.
"It's about how you can impress yourself upon the game as far as the intangibles, like winning 50-50 balls, being a little bit more physical and being aware in the other team's box on set pieces. They're playing very simple and they're nice hard-working kids."
After being disappointed with his squad's play during a lackluster opening half, Filian liked their effort in the final hour.
"Things were a little choppy and unbalanced in the first half," Filian said. "We play a very direct style and that means certain pattern play. I don't know if it was fatigue setting in or the way that Buffalo Grove was playing, but we were doing some things we normally don't do.
"We could never get that rhythm going to where we were winning balls and using our power game a little bit. We definitely made the adjustments in the second half, which was a lot better."
Perhaps the less said about the initial 40 minutes of play, the better, since neither side really even threatened very much.
Todor Dimitrov bounced one off the framework for the Bison while their keeper, Dillon Eaton, stopped a try by Gavin Falotico.
Things gradually started to pick up following the break, with the Pirates getting things going and then the Bison joining in.
Shortly after Tyler Curylo had to helped off the field, Clancy was wide on a long free kick and Falotico was high on a liner.
Not long after Daniel Ramirez was just wide on a shot for the Bison, the Pirates created several corners, which came up empty.
The visitors had some chances down the stretch but Drew Brauner, Hans Haller and Ramirez were all just a bit wide on attempts.
In the initial overtime, Falotico and Clancy had wide tries before Pat Tucharski found Zach Masciopinto, who was denied by Leber.
A Falotico throw-in led to a header by Brennan Harding that was stopped by Eaton, who later stopped a shot by Sergio Hernandez.
Early in the final extra session, Santiaguillo headed away a liner from Rafael Esquivel and then the hosts created some corners.
One last corner just before the final whistle nearly clicked but the Hernandez to Harding combo was thwarted by the Bison keeper.
"we're basically rebuilding our team since we only have three or four starters back," Santiaguillo said. "But we've been working hard so that we can get back to being the team that we were the last two years.
"Palatine's a good team. Over the last few games we've able to pressure the ball more and been more aggressive. This is a young team and we still have a lot to learn but I'm glad that we have starters back like Daniel, Zach and Dillon and me who know what it takes to get there."
Although the Pirates were denied a fourth-straight triumph, the fourth consecutive clean sheet was definitely a positive.
And just like the Bison, the fact that the squad lost so much to graduation and is still strong is an encouraging sign.
"When you have guys like the two Kyles in the back, it helps a lot with the leadership," Burke said. "You get great organization with those two in the back and then you have Gavin winning balls in the middle.
"Our work rate has been outstanding. Our goal in each game is just to pretty much outwork the other team and we've been able to do that so far. We have key players stepping up and filling spots. We're hard working and real stubborn and don't really take much and play no matter what."
The Pirates return to MSL play at Conant this afternoon while the Bison do the same when they host Prospect on Thursday.