Defense dictates Glenbrook rivalry match
North, South play to scoreless draw in CSL South clash
By Curt Herron
NORTHBROOK - When one team had allowed two goals in its previous seven matches and just four overall, and the other only yielded two scores in its last five matches, there was a good possibility that neither side would score once they met up.
That's what happened on Friday in the School District 225 clash between rivals Glenbrook South and Glenbrook North that was played at the latter's William Lutz Stadium.
On a night where the start was delayed for over an hour due to lightning and played in intermittent rain in the opening half, a large and enthusiastic crowd saw the visiting Titans and host Spartans play to a scoreless draw in their Central Suburban League South Division match.
Glenbrook North (5-3-3, 1-0-1) had won four in a row since getting off to a 1-3-2 start while Glenbrook South (4-1-5, 0-0-2) tied its last two matches after winning four in a row following an 0-1-3 start.
Although both sides had a number of good scoring chances, with many of those coming on corner kicks and free kicks, the two defenses thwarted everything that came their way.
Sharing the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor were the two goalkeepers, Titans senior Declan Cloutier and Spartans senior Jakub Murzyn, who both came up with numerous big stops in addition to hauling in all of the set pieces that came their way.
But it would have been just as appropriate to name the backlines of both teams for a group Man of the Match honor based on their quality play throughout the competition.
The hosts started seniors Alex Link, Jack Redland and Dylan Mankoff and junior Tal Yedlin along their backline, while the visitors countered with seniors Dominik Danko and Zarko Pavlovic and juniors Jimmy Agliken and Teddy Sturiale as their starters.
Senior defender Brady Rassin and sophomore defensive center midfielder Sam Lappin also strengthened the Spartans’ defensive play. Junior Chris Sanchez was another key defensive performer for the Titans.
"Obviously when you have your rivalry with Glenbrook South, everybody comes to play," Spartans coach Paul Vignocchi said. "After the first 20 minutes, I think that the game settled down for us a little bit, and we knocked it around. In the second half I thought we did a much better job of trying to control the ball.
"I told them that's the best GBS team that I've seen in a long time, and it could have gone either way. I thought our goalkeeper, Jakub, did a great job and our backline also did a great job. They're very dangerous because they're tall and athletic, and we played really smart, which was great. And obviously you expect your seniors to rise to the occasion against GBS."
Glenbrook South also a defensive unit to praise.
“We’re pretty proud of that,” Titans coach Reggie Lara of the backlineperformance. “As a former goalkeeper, I take pride in our teams having a strong defensive identity and being hard to crack. And we’ve been able to accomplish that fairly quickly.
“Now it’s about putting the rest of the puzzle pieces in place. We thought that we would have some quality chances against a really well-coached and organized Glenbrook North team, since they always are. It’s always a tough battle, especially for a rivalry game.
“I was hoping that my boys would execute a little better, and we were hoping to possess the ball. I think we were not able to play the way we are capable of playing on the offensive side, so that was frustrating.
"Part of that was because of GBN players working hard and making plays and stifling us. But at the same time, we were kind of shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of lack of communication and being able to see and read the play as it was happening.”
Glenbrook South failed to get a goal for the fourth time after scoring at least one in each of its previous five matches. The Titans have scored 10 goals in their 10 matches.
After each team had a few good chances in the opening half, scoring opportunities expanded significantly in the final 40 minutes as both began to apply more pressure on the defenses and goalkeepers.
For Glenbrook South, Josh Nelson had an early shot deflected by Murzyn, who made a big stop near the hour mark when he charged out of the goal to stop a try by Conor Beach. In the final 10 minutes, Bennett Steenbergen sent in a corner kick that was pulled in and Nelson was denied on a close-range effort shortly before the final whistle.
Some of the best final half chances for Glenbrook North came from Miles Wolder, who had a shot headed away by Sturiale and later sent in three-consecutive free kicks.
Wes Fagin had a short shot deflected by Cloutier, who then came out of the net to halt an attempt from Michael Abrams. And Wolder threatened once more with a 50-yard free kick.
"I think we've been super solid defensively for the entire season,” Cloutier said. "Both teams were definitely the most dangerous on set pieces. But we defended well, as we have all season. We win a lot of headers, and right now it's four goals allowed.
"I have to give all credit to my center backs and my outside backs. Zarko and Dominik win every header, and they're so solid at center backs. And my outside backs, Chris Sanchez, Teddy and Jimmy are all very solid in passing and defending. My midfielders close the ball down really well. It's just unlucky that we couldn't get it in the net today."
In the opening half, some of the Glenbrook North's best chances were provided by Aglikin, Nelson and Pavlovic, while their guests got good scoring attempts from Tal Yedlin and Wolder.
"In the first 20 minutes we looked a little slow, but then we started to pick it up," Link said. "Great credit to Sam; he was great and came back to help us. He was all over the place, and he really saved us. They have really good center mids, and he was getting back and working hard. We love that because it makes our job easier.
"When we have setbacks, we come back. I feel like we never give up, and we regroup and come out back on top. What I love about this team is that there's not a lot of yelling at each other, it's just productive, and we get each other, back each other up and turn it around."
The Titans not only hope to get back on the winning track but also to start scoring more goals this week when they host New Trier on Tuesday and play at Maine South on Thursday in CSL South action. Then they travel to Fishers, Ind., on Friday to play a nonconference match.
"Going into this game, we knew that GBN's defense was strong, and our defense is strong," Pavlovic said. "Both teams concede a very little amount of goals, especially in a really tough conference. So, we were expecting a really hard, physical, low-scoring game, and that's what happened.
"We played for each other. Especially when someone got beat on the ball, there was always another guy trying to come in and help. I like how we all play for each other. We like to bring each other up and regardless of whether you're a senior, junior or sophomore, I think that we have a great environment for our team."
"Our backline, we're a family. We're brothers; we have each others’ back, " Redland said. "The starting back four, we play hard and play together. I thought Sam played terrific today, and we poured our heart into this game. Honestly it could have gone either way. I'm proud of our boys because everyone played like it was their last game.
"This is the most fun that I've had playing soccer. This is my last chance, senior year, one last game against South. All of the seniors met and we talked about this and we left everything on the field. We're all friends and last year that wasn't necessarily the case. Everybody is friends with everyone. When someone messes up, there’s constructive criticism and I think that's what makes a good team. We're all brothers."
Glenbrook South looks to continue its improved play when the Spartans compete in a pair of CSL South road matches this week. They play Niles West on Tuesday and New Trier on Thursday.
G Declan Cloutier
D Zarko Pavlovic
D Teddy Sturiale
D Jimmy Aglikin
D Dominik Danko
M Owen Beumer
M Arturo Moyo
M Bennett Steenbergen
M Max Ostrowski
F Josh Nelson
F Conor Beach
G Jakub Murzyn
D Alex Link
D Dylan Mankoff
D Tal Yedlin
D Jack Redland
M Miles Wolder
M Devin Spiggos
M Ian Lee
M Sam Lappin
F Wes Fagin
F Michael Abrams
Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Declan Cloutier, sr., GK, Glenbrook South;
Jakub Murzyn, sr., GK, Glenbrook North