Warren works off rust, tops Lake Zurich Blue Devils move forward with 2-0 home conference win
By Rusty Silber
GURNEE – Like many players, Sebastian Rodriguez found ways to stay in soccer shape before the season finally got started after its long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Blue Devils' senior midfielder believes his group is ready for an awfully good campaign, no matter how compressed it is or what season its played in. Most problems fade into the background when you have the opportunity to kick the ball around with your schoolmates.
Warren, ranked ninth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, continued its winning start with a 2-0 victory over Lake Zurich 2-0 in its North Suburban Conference opener on Tuesday night in Gurnee. The Blue Devils (2-0-0, 1-0-0) opened their season with a 1-0 home shutout over Grayslake Central on March 9.
"It's odd to be out here now in the spring and much colder coming in," Rodriguez said. "It's just good to be out here, have a senior season and play with the guys that I grew up with.
"It's been a long time since we played out here. I feel, the coaches gave me all these months to perfect my craft. To come out here, it makes it easier for me. A lot of people I know, were slacking off and didn't put in a lot of time.
“Some of the guys and I would meet up every day, working on drills for finishing and shooting. We would work out anywhere that we could find fields and sometimes would get kicked off. We were just field-hopping just to get in some work."
Warren has a group of players who know how to work together. They found many passes and combinations that worked in setting up plays on Tuesday night.
Sophomore Miguel Garcia scored a goal and assisted on another to earn Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match recognition.
Garcia set up the opening goal after a corner kick. He found teammate Edward Luna in front of the goal in the 32nd minute. There were a combination of passes before Garcia sent the ball to an open spot.
"It was one of the plays that we set up," Garcia said. "I was fortunate to go for the run and put it to my player, and he got the goal. I was running more to get that play to work."
Garcia scored the second Blue Devils goal in the 69th minute for some insurance. Noe Martinez got the assist after a nice build-up and numerous passes before the shot on goal.
Warren features a possession style of soccer this season, and it’s starting to show.
"First half, we did an outstanding job, second half it got away from us a little bit," Warren coach Jason Ahonen said. "I think, we were pressing for that second goal until we put a number up. It was nice, the last few minutes, when we got the second goal. We kind of settled back and didn't have to press for a third. We had 15 passes at the end to seal it -- high soccer IQ, understanding what we want to do,
"The first game we were down a few guys. This game we had everyone. It's night and day in regards to what we can do when we have everyone. Lake Zurich did a nice job getting behind the ball and slowing down the attack, especially in the attacking third. But at the end of the day, it’s trying to limit their opportunities."
On the defensive side for Warren, NIc Diana made four saves for a clean-sheet. Defensively, the Blue Devils put a solid backline in front of him:with Chris Aldazaba, Cael Harris, Alex Senko and Bradley Strauss.
"Just trying to be a leader in the back and directing guys in front of me," said Senko of his effort. "We need a lot of communication to see who we need to mark on the field. We just direct and make sure that we're doing the right things."
Senko also has the ability to move forward with the ball and helped out on the Warren attack with numbers.
"I have a lot of experience at the six," Senko said. "When I see an open field in front of me, I take the open space, try to take the ball and look to the other spaces with the players around me."
Lake Zurich (1-1-1, 0-1-0) was playing more defense than offense in the first half but tried to push forward more in the second half for the tying goal. Warren’s second goal broke the Bears back.
"We do have a lot of experience and guys are having a lot of fun," Lake Zurich coach Michael Schmitz said. "I thought we were better in the second half. We started to take a few more chances and started to play a little quicker. We were looking for more through-balls and trying to put some more pressure on them. I thought we knocked around the ball very well."