Huskies edge Vikings to capture first MSL victory
By Jonah Rosenblum
If it looked like Hersey changed from the first half to the second half, that's because it did.
During the first half, the Huskies trapped mostly in their own half of the field, grappling with repeated Fremd free kicks and penetrations.
In the second half, Hersey took the offensive, embarking on fast break after fast break to storm out to a 3-2 Mid Suburban League victory over the Vikings in Palatine.
"Tactically, we changed," Huskies coach Darren Llewellyn said. "We started playing a second four diagonal instead of playing in front of their defense. We played in front of them and they ran through the ball.
"They were winning every ball, so we decided to take their midfield out of the game and play the forwards early."
That change really bore fruit in the final 25 minutes of a knotted contest.
With 24 minutes remaining, Hersey senior midfielder Charlie Davenport sliced a free kick that was headed just past the left side netting.
Minutes later, senior midfielder Dan Gramer stole the ball around midfield, but was beautifully pushed to the outside by the Fremd defense, which subsequently managed to block his crossing attempt.
All of these forays into Fremd territory paid off in the 61st minute, when Gramer took off on a 2-on-3 fast break down the field.
With the numbers not in his favor, Gramer noticed something that was: a gaping sliver in the right side of the net.
"I just saw an open shot and I knew I had to take it real quick and I just blasted it right into the opposite side," Gramer said. "It was wide open so I tried to take a quick shot."
Gramer toed the ball in to give the Huskies (4-2-0, 1-1-0) their first lead of the game.
"What did he do, he toed it," Llewellyn said. "It was a complete toe ball. I asked him what he tried to do and he said that was what he tried to do. He said he tried to hit a quick shot and the goalie couldn't react."
Ten minutes later, senior midfielder Michael Kaczor sent a slicing serve into the box and freshman midfielder Alex Filian tapped it in for a 3-1 lead.
"We talked at halftime about trying to play the weak side diagonal because their line would hold," Llewellyn said. "He reads the game really well for a freshman and he comes flying through and had position and tapped that in."
Though that marked the last goal Hersey would score, the Huskies continued to press forward.
Fifty seconds later, a Hersey corner led to a header that went just over the net. Minutes later, senior midfielder John Cappuccitti took a header and found himself in a one-on-one fast break up the field. His shot barely missed the right post.
Another long ball came shortly thereafter, as the Huskies won a foot race with the Vikings' defense — though they couldn't capitalize.
Fremd finally broke a scoring drought that lasted 72:40 when senior midfielder Nathan Dolan kneed in a corner to draw Fremd to within 3-2.
The Vikings (2-4-1, 1-1-0) failed to seriously threaten from there.
They may well have been tired. A Vikings squad that secured its first conference win over Rolling Meadows on Tuesday will also take part in the Fremd Invite on Friday and Saturday — a grueling stretch of three games in three days and four games in five.
"Four games in a week is too much," Fremd coach Steve Keller said. "At the same time, some guys will get in the game that didn't get a lot of minutes tonight.
"We'll treat it as a way to reevaluate what we have and what we have going forward. It's nice in that sense, but then we have to come back Saturday as well, so three games in three days is pretty tough."
At first, it looked like the Vikings might be headed for two wins in three days when they sent a free kick into the box from 26 yards out in the fourth minute.
The ball was headed toward the left post, and only a sprawling save by junior goalkeeper Cristian Carranza kept it out. Junior forward Jacob Cuthbert followed the shot, however, and ran the ball into the net for a 1-0 Fremd lead.
Fremd continued to control the game after that, taking the first four shots of the match.
"First half, we didn't really control the game that well," Gramer said. "The midfield was kind of falling apart. We weren't able to possess the mid and then we started just playing it long to the forwards and it didn't work that well. We knew we had to change that in the second half."
Despite notching very few chances in the first half, Hersey was able to head into halftime all tied up, thanks to Cappuccitti's hard, low shot right at the goalkeeper.
Fremd's Dylan Fisher was able to block it, but not corral it, and he paid the price when Davenport punched the rebound into the net.
The Vikings had several chances to go up 2-1, as senior forward Brock Von Holt sent multiple dangerous free kicks on net from midfield. Afterward, Keller lamented his team's inability to finish any of them.
"We had the set pieces but I don't think we're aggressive enough in the box or hungry enough," Keller said.
"The ball is bouncing around in there, and who's all over it, orange and the goalie, so our guys got to be a little more tough in there and aggressive in terms of getting their foot on the ball or their head on the ball, whatever they need to."
The Huskies may have made their signal early in the second half, as Cappuccitti played a deep free kick into the box from the 40-yard line. Only a leaping save from the goalkeeper, as he stretched his fingers toward the crossbar, kept the score knotted at one.
Hersey nearly took control in the 46th minute, when the Huskies sent a long arcing ball to Gramer, who took the ball on a hop and thus allowed the defense to catch up and clear it away.
The Vikings followed with a few opportunities of their own, as a cross in the 48th minute drew Carranza out of the net and forced him to make a dangerous sliding play with his foot.
A deep throw-in in the 55th minute sidled past Hersey's defense and made it all the way to Dolan, whose bicycle kick sailed high and wide of the net.
The Huskies would re-establish control, notching seven of the next eight shots — and more important — two of the final three goals.
"Maybe we got a little bit complacent and eventually we made a couple of mistakes and it cost us a goal," Keller said. "We were in a battle. We were right there and then we just made a couple of mental mistakes in the second half and we dug too deep a hole.
"Mental mistakes," Keller said. "In terms of where to be, when to step, being goal side, things that we've been preaching for a long time."