Tonight’s game was a high paced, hard fought, incredibly gritty victory for our boys. The game started at a breakneck pace, with Michael Blanke finding his way behind the Meadows defense in the first 30 seconds of the match, then slashing his shot at goal just wide. Just a little more than a minute later it was Meadows on the attack, dispossessing us in the midfield and storming forward. The Mustang midfielder carrying the ball looked up and blasted a dipping shot just over the fingers of Bronco goalkeeper Brett Sprengel, and just under the crossbar. Rather quickly, we were faced with a one goal deficit; the good news was that there was nearly a full match of the game to play.
As the first half rambled on, we carried a majority of the play, although Rolling Meadows did create a few chances of their own, and they played hard defensively. Everything we created was a result of good passes and some great runs. Meadows did allow us to play “route one” often and few were able to find space in behind, as our tandem of front runners both seemed to have better speed than their Meadows adversaries. Our Broncos had three high quality chances that we were unable to convert, unable to put any of them on goal.
At halftime, the boys were challenged to be more composed and more clinical with the chances that would be coming in the second stanza. Coach Steib told the players that “great players have to show up in big moments” and challenged them to keep playing and to be efficient.
The first quarter hour of the second half was much like the first half, although we did start to put a few chances on target. Midway through the half, two great chances came just a few minutes apart when the Mustangs were whistled for fouls just outside their goal area. Klaus Pallan’s attempts were knocked down by the wall on the first, and pushed just wide by the RM keeper on the second. These chances may not have leveled the score, but they did boost our momentum and belief. More and more chances came our way over the next few minutes.
Finally, in the 66th minute, following a skirmish in front of the Meadows net, Aidan Lew fired in the tying goal. Lew’s first career varsity goal was an important one, and the joy on his face as the boys lifted him up in celebration was fabulous! Immediately you could feel the exhalation by our boys, knowing that we now had 14 minutes to try to win the game.
We kept the pressure on as the work rate of Omkar Prabhavalkar, Ethan Lew, Gio Guarnero, Enrico Ruffolo, Klaus Pallan and Michael Blanke fueled a lot of pressure on the Meadows defense. Blanke would make a half dozen of his patented blazing paced runs, serving quality balls on nearly all of them. In the 75th minute, one of those balls from Blanke was delivered directly to the path of Klaus Pallan who provided us the much deserved lead. Although this celebration was well deserved, our boys didn’t let up and got back to work right away. Just a minute later, Pallan would strike again as Enrico Ruffolo played the big striker in again, cutting the ball to his left and placing the ball across the face of goal and into the side netting of the far post. Just like that we took the lead and secured the win.
The story within the story was how hard our guys played tonight. The entire group was fully committed to winning headers, tackles and all sorts of 50/50 balls. It was impressive and inspiring. Performances like this make you feel like this team could have that extra gear that is so needed to win on cold nights in October, when it’s as much or more about desire as it is about soccer and skill. Hopefully we discovered some things tonight, like that effort and also the ability to come from behind.
In terms of meaningfulness, on the bus ride home we found out that Palatine was beaten by Fremd tonight, giving us a 6 point lead in the division. Hoffman Estates also knocked off Conant in OT, giving the Cougars three losses. With us at 6-0 in MSL play, we certainly have a great opportunity to defend our MSL West crown, although we have several tough matches ahead, including games against the top four other teams in the conference yet to be played (based on today’s table/standings.) We will do everything we can, that’s for sure.
RMHS (#10) — 2nd minute
BHS – Aidan Lew (Noah Sebens) — 66th minute
BHS – Klaus Pallan (Michael Blanke) — 75th minute
BHS – Klaus Pallan (Enrico Ruffolo) — 76th minute
Fouls: BHS 14, RMHS 10
Corner kicks: BHS 7, RMHS 1
Offsides: BHS 1, RMHS 0