This year’s MSL Championship matched up our Broncos with the MSL East Division Champions, the Buffalo Grove Bison. While these two teams are often found at or near the top of the MSL table, and have each had some great matches during the last few MSL campaigns, neither of these two teams had hoisted the MSL championship trophy in many years. Barrington last won the MSL Cup in 2004, and Buffalo Grove hadn’t captured the title since 1988, when USMNT Hall of Famer Brian McBride was wearing the BG kit. Our Barrington squad reached the game for the 8th time in the last 15 years, which in the MSL is almost a feat on it’s own. Unfortunately, we also entered having lost our last five trips to the game, in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016. Our squad was poised to do everything we could to snap that streak!
The game started out with our Broncos playing some excellent soccer. With the ball at our feet a majority of the first half, we probed and pushed, and created a few good chances to score. Some came through the run of play, while others occurred from restarts. BG applied a terrific tactical game plan and made quality chances hard to come by.
Just 14 minutes into the match, we quickly felt our excitement and optimism take a turn for the worse when our junior forward and speedy winger Michael Blanke hobbled off of the field to get treatment for an ankle injury. Despite the best efforts of Blanke and our athletic trainer Russ, Blanke’s night was over. The pain in his ankle was too intense and would not allow him to push off, change direction or play. Hopefully for our squad, we will be able to get him healthy for next week.
The game resumed and before long, the best chance of the first half of play came from the head of Klaus Pallan. The big senior did extremely well to thump his header attempt down into the ground, seemingly just inside the post. The ball bounced toward the goal and then out of nowhere a hand from the diving BG goalkeeper somehow pushed the ball out for a corner kick. What a save!
Not too long after that attempt, BG enjoyed their best chance of the half, coming on a Barrington miscue. Our goalkeeper and center back pairing of Brett Sprengel and Nathan Patterson, had a brief moment of miscommunication which allowed the ball to travel in behind both of them, with a BG forward coming in hard and strong to press. The disaster was averted as the ball went wide, and Coach Steib’s blood pressure eventually dropped back to a somewhat normal level.
Halftime came and we discussed a few minor changes and adjustments, but mainly encouraged our boys to try to be a little more precise in the final third, while also them to be a little better in terms of anticipating second chances and loose balls. The first half had mainly gone our way, as we enjoyed a 7 to 1 shot advantage. We hope to carry that type of play and the numerical shot advantage into the second half. We felt good about our chances to win this game.
Buffalo Grove had a few ideas of their own. As the second half unfurled, they grew into the game more and more, and while the possession numbers probably still favored our side, it was a significantly more even game in the second 40 minute period.
At the end of regulation, BG had increased their attempts at goal to 8, while holding us to only 4 second half shots. Most of the BHS chances came through free kicks, with many of those from the strong foot of Charlie Frank, who was dropping balls in the Bison box from all over the field.
Two ten minute “golden goal” overtime periods were played, and the game was a bit sloppier than it was in regulation. Coach Steib elected to go with a short bench in the match, and it seemed as some of the heavy legs started to result in inaccurate passes and errant touches. Without a high quality chance for either side coming during either of the overtime periods, penalty kicks would be the only method for determining this years champion.
In the shootout, BG won the coin toss and elected to shoot first. The first BG shooter walked up to take the first attempt and hit the ball just over the crossbar, missing his target. The window of potential opportunity had been opened. Barrington’s first shooter would be Klaus Pallan, one of our all time leading scorers and a proven PK specialist who made 7 out of 7 attempts in the 2016 season, and 1 of 1 this year. As we would hope, he was as cool as the underside of the pillow, and he calmly gave us the 1-0 advantage. BG would make their next two shots, as would our next two shooters (Enrico Ruffolo and Noah Sebens.) Both teams would see each of their fourth shooters miss, with Bronco keeper Brett Sprengel saving the BG attempt, and our shooter Connor Delahunt just missing his target when he smashed his attempt off of the inside of the left post. With the two misses, we maintained the advantage for our side as the 5th shooters prepared.
With each team having just one player left to go in the shootout, the pressure was strong, especially on the visitors. Buffalo Grove had to have a goal, or Barrington would be crowned champions. The fifth BG shooter stepped up, struck the ball to his left and held his breath. Barrington goalkeeper Brett Sprengel had chosen the correct side, and the ball was there for him to potentially save. As he dove to his right, Sprengel managed to get a hand on the ball…. but it deflected off of his hands and into the goal. Sprengel was SO close! We all exhaled and turned our eyes to our fifth shooter, freshman forward Aidan Lew. A goal here for our Broncos would give us the hard fought win and seemingly elusive conference title.
Lew gathered his emotions and walked up to the spot. The whistle blew. Aidan Lew became an instant hero! His spot kick was accurate and precise, and left the Bison keeper no opportunity. Our Broncos won the 2017 MSL Championship! Victory was ours!
What a great feeling! What a great win!
Much credit should be given to both teams, for playing a hard, smart and tactically sound contest. Buffalo Grove allowed only three goals in the twelve MSL matches they played this year. They clearly have a great defensive unit and plan, and will be a hard team to beat in the upcoming IHSA Sectionals. Congratulations to BG Coach Brad Abel and his entire team for a great 2017 MSL campaign and a great match tonight.
Our Barrington boys also deserve a load of credit, as all of them played well. Noah Sebens played a terrific game, as did his backline mates Charlie Frank, Nathan Patterson and Connor Delahunt. Sebens was dominant in the air most of the evening, but especially in the first half. He single-handedly destroyed a dozen attempts that the Bison made to serve balls into our defensice third of play. Connor Delahunt also excelled as he played ever steady defense while also making 6-8 creative runs with the ball, darting through BG defenders, initiating forays in the BG goal area, drawing fouls and giving us some highly dangerous free kick chances. Enrico Ruffolo and Gio Guarnero played with great desire and skill, as we have come to expect. Klaus Pallan looked to be working at a all time high, coming back to get balls and holding up play for our attack to develop. Like Delahunt, Pallan would also make a flurry of attacking runs while dribbling, coming just a little short of a place where he could unload a shot at the BG next. Ethan Lew, Justin Funk, and Omkar Prabhavalkar all pushed the pace of the game. Then, goalkeeper Brett Sprengel and phenom freshman Aidan Lew rose to the occasion in the shootout and had their moments. It was a great team effort and a glorious night to celebrate our capturing of the 2017 MSL Conference Championship!
GREAT JOB BRONCOS!! YNWA!!!
– no goals were scored in regulation or either overtime period.
– Barrington wins 4-3 in PK’s
Shots: BHS 12, BGHS 9
Corner kicks: BHS 5, BGHS 2
Fouls: BHS 13, BGHS 17
Offsides: BHS 0, BGHS 0