Rohl produces big night, high praise
as Downers South bests Leyden
Mustangs regain their best form with 3-0 victory
By Dave Owen
NORTHLAKE -- After a rough first week of October, Downers Grove South was back on track Tuesday with a 3-0 win at Leyden. The winners earned rave reviews from across the field.
“In my opinion that’s the best team we’ve played all year,” Leyden coach Mark Valintis said. “What they looked like tonight, I can’t see them being a four seed. They were strong, and they finished their chances.”
The highest praise was deservedly saved for Mustangs sophomore Nick Rohl, Chicagoland Soccer’s Man of the Match, whose dominant effort produced two goals. He also drew a penalty kick to set up the night’s other goal.
“No. 14 (Rohl) – I’ll say right now he’s the best player we’ve faced all year,” Valintis said. “The game he had tonight, we had no answer.
“He beat us with speed, strength, right foot, left foot, finesse ... you name it, he did it. Hats off to him, and best of luck to them in the playoffs. There are a lot of schools in that sectional that won’t be happy that they’re getting back on track.”
Leyden goalkeeper Alfredo Recendez offered his own endorsement of Rohl.
“He’s very strong on the ball, he’s very physical and he knows how to control it,” Recendez said. “Our defense just couldn’t keep up with him today. He’s very good.”
Unbeaten through 12 games, Downers South (10-2-4, 3-1 in the WSC Gold) hit turbulence last week with losses to Morton and Naperville North and a tie against Downers Grove North.
Entering on a five-game unbeaten streak, Leyden tested the Mustangs’ defense Tuesday with three excellent chances in the first 12 minutes (capped by Miguel Mireles’ 20-yard shot just wide of the net off a Victor Flores pass).
But Downers South was soon on a roll.
With 25:23 left in the first half, Rohl intercepted an offensive zone pass and sped in on a breakaway. Leyden goalkeeper Alfredo Recendez made a great save on the first try, but Rohl collected the rebound right of the net and lined a shot inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
“We came out kind of flat the past week, with tough losses and tough ties (Downers North and Fenton) when we felt like we should win,” Rohl said. “(Before the game) we were like, ‘We have to come out strong tonight, we have to make a statement and get back on track for the playoffs.’ And that’s exactly what we did.
“We went right down their throats and kept pushing and pushing. They got a couple of early chances, but we have a solid defense that was strong – and when we had a chance to break, we did.”
That play set the tone for the night.
“We created some opportunities,” Valintis said, “then that first goal was a poor pass and they pick it off and go in.
“The goalie makes a great save and then he (Rohl) turns around and from a tough angle he buries it. It seemed like they got stronger, and at times we showed flashes, but I think we struggled with their pace.”
The goal by Rohl (who has six this season) was the spark for an already motivated Mustangs squad.
“It was rough last week,” Downers South goalkeeper Sam Dumford said. “We knew we had to have this; it’s a big conference game (for second in the WSC Gold).
“We knew (Leyden) would come out hard because it’s their Senior Night, but we got our heads straight and didn’t want last week to happen again.”
Downers South coach Jon Stapleton commented, “Obviously getting a lead helps, and Nick Rohl had a nice finish down there. An early goal takes a little bit of the pressure off, and we’ve talked the last couple of days about getting back to the mentality we had early in the year, of giving our best for 80 minutes. I thought the kids responded tonight with that. It was good to see. I’m really proud of their effort.
“They (Leyden) had a large part of the attack in the first couple of minutes, but we weathered the storm and got things situated.”
Leyden (8-5-3, 3-2) had an immediate chance to answer Rohl’s goal one minute later on a hand ball call, but Christian Sosnowski’s 20-yard free kick was blocked at the wall. Then 20:50 before halftime, David Senk’s steal of a clearing attempt set up an Erik Rodriguez 12-yarder that went just wide of the net.
Still, the Mustangs remained on the offensive – Eric Diaz sent a 10-yard shot off the side of the net, then Rohl made big things happen again with 10:10 left in the half.
Dribbling to the end line left of the net, Rohl was taken down inside the box for a penalty kick. Jason Galik lined the PK inside the upper right corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Rohl continued to blister the Leyden defense, but a nice Recendez save denied his next burst in on goal 3:40 before the half. Recendez then saved a Joe Caldarazzo 22-yard shot as the score remained 2-0 at the half.
With Leyden playing its best soccer of the year coming in (unbeaten since a Sept. 23 OT loss to conference champ Morton), comeback hopes remained despite the deficit.
“To be down 2-0 at half to a team like this – we haven’t faced that adversity all year, and I was excited and anxious to see how my group would respond,” Valintis said. “It was a bonding moment for the team to come together and think, ‘When we do get down, we can come back and overcome obstacles.’ But we didn’t even give ourselves a chance in the second half. They scored right away again, and that took away that chance for us.”
Rohl came up big again. Racing in on right wing just 1:29 into the half, he drilled a 12-yarder that Recendez got a hand on. But the ball narrowly crossed the goal line despite valiant efforts of two Leyden defenders to keep it out of the net, making the score 3-0.
“It felt really good,” Rohl said of his huge night. “It’s been hard lately to get those plays, but today I was really comfortable in what I was doing. Me, Eric (Diaz) and Alex (Escamilla) working together, we were all on the same page.”
The final page of the story was the Downers South defense, which included a key new addition.
Ryan Strelau made his season debut after being sidelined all year by injury, and immediately contributed off the bench with two nice steals in the final third of the field (one in each half).
“It’s definitely good to have him (Strelau) back,” Dumford said. “I play club with him, and he’s a strong player. And now that we have five in the back again instead of just four, we’re able to substitute and feel more comfortable.”
Stapleton added, “I’m sure his conditioning isn’t where he wants it to be, but he looked pretty good. That helps our back line. It gives us a chance to rotate some different guys in there and keep guys fresh.”
Starting defenders Andrew Dobosenski, Matt Buczko, Kyle Harty and Griffin Overbeck were solid again Tuesday, helping the Mustangs to their eighth shutout.
“I know I can come off my line and trust my defense to be there for me,” Dumford said. “We had a game in the Indianapolis Great Midwest Classic that Andy Dobosenski saved a ball on the goal line, almost what happened on Nick’s goal. I can trust that they’ll be there and play my hardest.”
Starting with his save on a Cesar Franco free kick two minutes in, Dumford also did his part all night.
Dumford made a nice catch at the post of Angel Lopez’s header off a cross with 18:30 left, then made his save of the night at the 10:40 mark. Kristian Havran’s pass sprung Erik Rodriguez up the middle, but Dumford made a great one-handed save diving to his left. Rodriguez sent the rebound attempt wide.
Gabe Perez sent an 18-yard shot wide with 2:10 left for the Eagles’ last decent chance. Dumford’s final save was on a 32-yard Bryan Ramos free kick with 5:50 to go, and twice in the second half, the Mustangs defense swarmed Leyden standout Sosnowski to deny his individual efforts in deep.
Stapleton began to see his team’s swagger return in the second half of Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Naperville North, and the Mustangs were very sharp Tuesday.
“Ultimately it was us getting back to the mind-set of what makes us successful, playing hard and playing for each other as a team,” Stapleton said. “It was a nice collective effort.”
Midfielders Peter Becht, Hunter Thoren and Peter Fish (back after missing two games with injuries) also keyed the win with strong play, and reserves John Parilla (steal off a Leyden throw-in) and Anthony Massello added nice defensive end plays.
“I feel like we bounced back after our first loss against Morton,” Rohl said. “We came out strong against North and we just let it go at the end (up 2-0 in an eventual 2-2 tie). We finished the job this time. We played a solid 80 minutes, and that’s what it takes to win.”
Leyden hadn’t lost in two weeks before Tuesday, but doesn’t plan to dwell on the defeat.
“This game is in the past,” Recendez said. “We can’t focus on this because if we do, we’re not going to play good in our next game against LT (Lyons Township on Thursday). We’ll see what we did wrong in this one and fix it for the next one.”
Downers Grove South
Officials: Josef Keller, Tomasz Zajaczkowski, John Washo
Man of the Match: Nick Rohl, Downers Grove South