Experience pays off again for Lake Park
Seniors' hustling play gets Lancers back on right track
By Bill Stone
ADDISON -- Following the greatest season in Lake Park boys soccer history with a senior-led lineup, senior outside midfielder Kris Lopez realizes an important remnant that could continue the success.
“We have to hustle twice as hard as every other team. It’s a new team (for us),” Lopez said. “There are a lot of skilled teams out there, more skilled than us, and we’ve got to outhustle them because hard work beats talent, for sure.”
Less than nine minutes into Tuesday’s season opener at Addison Trail, Lopez dug out a ball near the sidelines and turned it into a scoring play that set the tone for the Lancers’ 3-1 victory.
Lake Park collected all of its goals in the first half. Senior Eric Claudio scored twice, and Lopez provided two assists, earning the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honors. Senior Oliver Horgan scored the first goal, and senior Lorenzo Mariani’s corner kick set up the second.
Addison Trail sophomore Tom Kania scored with 13:53 left after junior goalie Michael Jasiak made a diving save on senior Elias Leyva’s free kick from 30 yards out.
“The first 25 minutes, fantastic (for us), and I think (Lopez) owned that outside left,” Lake Park coach Anthony Passi said. “He got himself in situations where he was going 1-v-1, taking it to the end line and beating players, taking it to the near post and finding targets.”
Lopez created the first goal with 32:57 left in the first half by stealing the ball from a defender at the 20 and cutting down the left sideline before crossing to Horgan for a one-timer.
The Lancers’ final goal with 11:18 left until halftime began with a nice passing combination down left wing with Lopez and junior Alex Armas, who later left the game with an ankle injury.
“I always tell my guys to give it to me out wide,” Lopez said. “I usually like taking guys 1-on-1 and taking them on down line. I try getting near post and then just crossing the ball in, helping (teammates) score.”
Claudio gave some extra effort that resulted in a 2-0 lead with 20:15 left in the half. Mariani delivered a dangerous ball, but Claudio persevered in the crease for about five seconds before he could strike the ball.
“When that ball is just loose in the air, whoever wants it the most is going to end up on top of it,” Claudio said. “You’ve just got to work hard, and I ended up with the ball and just put it in the back of the net.”
Lopez and Horgan are the only returning starters from last year’s 21-4-3 team that finished fourth in state -- the first Downstate appearance for the program. However, the Lancers graduated 16 seniors, including all-stater Mike Catalano (30 goals, 9 assists in 2013), now at Wisconsin, and all-sectional player Joe Keane (8 goals, 14 assists). All-sectional honorable mention Gio Ciaccio (7 goals, 3 assists) also opted to play club soccer this fall for his senior season.
“We’ve got to make a statement. Last year we got fourth in state, and this year we’ve got targets on our backs,” Lopez said. “We’re trying to get some chemistry out here. We’ve got a lot of new guys, underclassmen, every grade. We’ve just got to lead the team and tell them how it goes.”
Horgan (16 goals, 3 assists) was second in goals last season, and Lopez (3 goals, 7 assists) was fourth in assists. Lopez nearly opted for club soccer this fall, as well as for the Chicago Magic’s development academy program.
“I decided to come back and play with the Lancers. I would get more
playing time, be a leader,” Lopez said.
Passi explained, “He was thinking about playing academy, and I think we had some special moments here and he wanted to finish up and it worked out. He had a great game.”
Addison Trail returns just three full-time starters from last year’s 8-11-1 team that lost 2-1 to Elk Grove in the regional finals. Lake Park beat Elk Grove 2-0 in the Schaumburg Sectional semifinals. The Blazers graduated all four of their 2013 All-West Suburban Conference Gold players, including all-sectional defender Angelo Amato and all-honorable mention all-sectional forward Trey Smith.
Returning starters are Kania, senior sweeper Sergio Marin and senior goalie Jonah Moran. Leyva also started but was limited to six games because of a season-ending injury.
Moran, Leyva and senior outside midfielder Kevin Alvarez are team captains. The Blazers have four sophomores and a freshman on their roster, three of whom started Tuesday.
“We do have some youth. It’s going to take some time. I see us in the middle of the season, towards the end, really hitting on all cylinders,” Addison Trail coach Ryan Dini said. “I thought the second half we played a lot better. The first half we were a little shell-shocked. They came at us, they hit to the end line, and they had a couple of easy goals on us right away.”
Lake Park still started eight seniors. Many of them saw significant time as reserves in 2013, but Jasiak and the starting defensive group are entirely new.
Claudio already has exceeded his 2013 varsity output of one goal and one assist.
“It’s great because I’ve played with most of these guys for most of my life,” Claudio said. “Just getting more playing time, it’s more goals for the team.”
Lake Park outshot Addison Trail 12-3 in the first half, including 8-1 in shots on goal, and led 5-0 in corner kicks. The Lancers had a few more chances over the first eight minutes of the second half, but the Blazers came on with seven shots over the final 30 minutes (5 on goal) and two corner kicks.
“I think we started getting a little fatigued," Passi said. "The last 15 minutes of the first half I noticed, on both sides, the level of play started to dip. It’s the beginning of the year, first game, and the hot, humid weather had a little impact on everything.”
Leyva had seven of the Blazers’ shots with four on goal. With 22 minutes left, he had his team’s first strong scoring chance, with another 30-yard free kick that Jasiak handled.
“The positive is they got fourth in state, and we lost 3-1," Leyva said. "It’s a bad way to start the season, but all we can do is learn with our next home tournament and then get some leadership out there from the seniors.
“The first goal (we allowed) was not the best, but after a while, we let down. We were talking about it with the team, not letting down after the first goal, keep it going. The second half, we came out. We got a goal. (But) it was too late.”
GK Michael Jasiak; defenders Kevin Amerlan, Franco Mariani, Miguel Ramirez and Joshua Solarz; midfielders Eric Claudio, Lorenzo Costa, Oliver Horgan, Kris Lopez and Lorenzo Mariani; and forward Ricky Claudio.
GK Jonan Moran; defenders Dan Baeza, Dannys Garcia, Sergio Marin and Ruben Parades; midfielders Kevin Alvarez, Jonathan Hernandez, Uriel Martinez and Damian Zielinski; forwards Elias Leyva and Tom Kania.
Man of the Match: Kris Lopez, Lake Park.
Referee: Mark Kenar; assistant referees: Cesar Alfaro, (third referee's name unavailable).