Sabres drop rival Elgin for third shutout of the year
By Mike Garofola
Streamwood tuned up for its annual trip to the Pepsi Showdown with a convincing 3-0 victory over long-time rival Elgin Wednesday afternoon on a hot and muggy day at Millennium Stadium.
The Sabres (5-1-0) got off on the front foot during the early exchanges, scoring the only goal they would need at 13 minutes from Edwin Rueda. Streamwood kept Elgin at bay, which likely had revenge on its mind with a 5-0 loss in last year’s regional final still a point of annoyance for the Maroons (3-2-1) and David Borg, the Elgin manager.
"I thought we played (Streamwood) fairly close for a while in that regional (final) but they more or less blew us away in the second half in a 5-0 game," said Borg, now in his 13th year.
"We were looking forward to playing them today, especially because of that result, and the fact that we've been playing well ourselves, and this is a big rivalry game. But after playing a fairly decent first half, we just didn't match that play and ended up not giving them the game.”
"All of us know so many guys on the Elgin team,” Streamwood’s Christian Vences said. “And we each want to beat the other so that's why I think we came out kind of slow and not playing our style. There was a lot of nerves and anxiety for us."
Both sides may have been feeling those nerves, as witnessed by a slew of early whistles by the center official, who struggled to keep things under control in what might be described as 'chippy' play, but certainly not dirty.
Dissent was cited for the first two of the five yellow card bookings on the day, and along with several more stoppages, the first 10 minutes provided little rhythm and pace for the good-sized crowd to enjoy.
When things finally settled in, Rueda gave the Sabres’ faithful something to get excited about when teammates Nestor Ascencio and Christian Campos shredded the Elgin midfield with some nifty combination work, leaving the sophomore with enough time and space to go past a helpless Flavio Jaimes, who himself had a good day between the sticks for the Maroons.
"We probably played a little bit better in that first half, possessing well and going more direct but Elgin can play the game too, and it was important for us to match their energy in the first half,” Streamwood coach Matt Polovin said. “I thought we let our fitness take over in the second half, especially in the final 20 minutes where you could see (Elgin) wearing down, and us being much quicker and faster on the ball.”
Visiting Elgin, with several young and inexperienced players on its roster, leaned heavily on its senior keeper Jaimes, who was active and alert in and around the box to help stymie the Sabres. Streamwood played through its all-state midfielder Ascencio as often as it could, trusting their captain to distribute and power the attack.
Ascencio’s neat little chip on the left side found Vences, who in turn did the same with a looping ball he had hoped would beat Jaimes, but the Maroons keeper pulled that attempt out of the air. Jaimes saved on Vences and perhaps made his best stop of the first period with a kick-save on Juan Munoz.
The Sabres’ attack, now fully up and running after the quarter hour, was rewarded for its work when Rueda stretched the lead two minutes from intermission.
With Vences standing alongside him from 30 yards, Rueda struck a sensational freekick into the back of the net with Jaimes unable to get a glove on the well-aimed smash.
"(Their) midfield began to outwork us towards the end of the half, and their ability to move the ball in and out, and play wide might have been the telling story in the eventual outcome today," suggested Borg.
"Nestor gave me a great ball on my first goal, then later he helped set up the second one when he got in deep and got fouled," said Rueda.
"I was feeling real confident on that freekick, and just made up my mind to hit it hard, and it went in."
The home side had just a few nervous moments in its own end during the match, two of them coming when attempts to pass the ball back to first-half keeper Sergio Blanco lacked enough pace to safely have the ball reach the junior keeper.
Senior Phil Lewy, who came on for Blanco after the break, had an easier time of it during his 40 minutes of work, thanks in part to the Sabres' ability to stay in the Maroons end with a high percentage possession rate.
Streamwood also got a solid day’s work from the backline of Eire Ortez, Christian Balbino and Mike Delaney.
"Our goal this season is to raise the level of our play each time out, and that goes for our guys in the back," says Polovin of a unit which has now recorded three clean sheets.
A now tiring group of defenders from Elgin would bring down Donnie Sosa just at the edge, and the ever opportunistic Vences would rip his free-kick off and through the wall, and into net.
Polovin, who cleared space on his schedule in advance of the Pepsi Showdown, is looking forward to the mega-tournament, which begins in earnest this Saturday in LaGrange at the Lyons Township High School soccer fields.
The Sabres open tourney play against Wheaton-Warrenville South, and for the always optimistic Polovin, the weekend cannot come any quicker.
"Our expectations going in are always the same, and that's to get into that championship game at Toyota Park,” Polovin said.
"It would be a tremendous experience for the players to have a game on a professional field, and especially with the way we play, and our style, which is to utilize the whole field."
Polovin says the chance to play different teams who would rarely ever be on the Sabres regular season schedule only enhances the experience for the club, while all the freebies and apparel each player receives is an added bonus.
After playing at least 4 games over the two-weeks of the Pepsi, the Sabres move over to compete in the St. Charles East Invite, making it three consecutive weeks of tournament play, before going on the road to UEC conference foe and River Division power East on October 3.
"We like to think if we continue to work hard, and improve in all areas of our game, that we can be right there with East for the division title, which would help set us up later when the state tournament series begins," said Polovin.