York, Morton take alternate paths to draw Mustangs rally in second half for 2-2 final
By Patrick Z. McGavin
BERWYN — Playing Morton is rarely a day at the beach.
Complicating matters further was the first week of the season. Chicagoland Soccer’s previously top-rated Mustangs found themselves in what could only be described as a foreign country. They were under .500 after suffering a 3-2 home loss against then no. 10 and now no. 2 Lyons.
“Morton didn’t expect for that to happen, and I told my kids the first 10 or 15 minutes of our game was maybe going to be the hardest they ever had to play in their lives,” first-year York coach Jordan Stopka said.
Reputations matter, as does background and context. Morton is a defending Class 3A state finalist.
York had a quality side a year ago, but many of the top contributors from that group have graduated. Stopka has sought to integrate some talented and hungry young players with the foundational pieces, like junior midfielder Sam Musial.
“The majority of our team last year was seniors, so we brought in some new juniors and some new sophomores and the first weeks had to establish the chemistry,” Musial said.
“I think we showed it out there today against one of the best teams in the state. We competed; and we played hard, and we showed we belonged.”
The intensity and purpose from both sides colored the action. Morton came out “hot and heavy,” as York forward Gliatis called it. The Mustangs generated two corner kicks in the first four minutes of play.
York countered with some terrific set pieces and the ability to control the ball against the fast and dynamic Mustangs.
Eventually, the math evened out, and Morton found its own stride with a second half flurry.
York stunned Morton with two first half goals only for the Mustangs to fight back behind the terrific play of Giovanni Alvarez and Cristian Perez for the 2-2 draw in a West Suburban cross-over game Tuesday night.
“When we got down in the first half, we realized it was the team; and nobody blamed each other or just one person for that,” Alvarez said.
“At halftime, we got together and realized we needed to show more intensity and a greater mentality of not putting our heads down and just coming out strong.”
York (1-0-1) withstood the early pressure and some quality play from its senior keeper Mario Aguilar-Garcia. He finished with seven saves and demonstrated range, quickness and excellent anticipation skills.
Center back Connor Bare was also a rangy and physical.
York offset the early Morton push with a controlled style that frustrated the host Mustangs.
“We came in knowing they were really good, and we had responsibilities both offensively and defensively,” Musial said.
“We looked to find our striker and play off of him and build up either through the center backs or in the flanks, and I think it worked out well.”
Stopka said they watched a streaming feed of the Lyons and knew they had to make tactical adjustments, playing Gliatis up-top.
“We had to play him up higher to keep their center backs father back in order to exploit the space behind them,” Stopka said.
“We were able to get through those early minutes, and we were able to settle down. We started connecting passes in the center, and we started to look like we could possess and play with them.”
That work paid off in the 19th minute after forward Erik Barishman got behind the Mustangs and barreled toward the goal.
He appeared ready to take the shot himself only to lose his balance, his hesitation move allowing teammate Joe Hernandez to run off his right flank.
Barishman slotted the ball to his right and Hernandez drilled the 21-yard ball for the opening goal.
“We have to be more consistent starting the game,” Morton coach Jim Bageanis said. “We played all right for the first five or 10 minutes, and then we went into a bit of a lull.
“We were not winning 50/50 balls, and they just started beating us to every ball. It seemed like we were not settling the ball down or moving it on the ground.”
Gliatis extended the lead to 2-0 late in the first half. He created his own scoring chance, driving against two Morton defenders and blasted a ball that ricocheted off one defender for the corner opportunity.
Corner specialist Bare lofted a sharp ball that Gliatis ran on with finesse and perfectly deflected it into the net in the 38th minute.
“I just tried to get a touch on the ball,” Gliatis said. “I saw the two defenders, and I got a lucky touch and one of them touched it last and that created the corner.
“We have pretty good chemistry with corners. We always know where the ball is going to be, and I was able to get my head onto the ball.”
York also largely nullified Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater Cristian Perez, the Mustangs’ leading returning scorer who had a hot start to the season with two first half goals against Lyons.
“They caught us sleeping a couple of times,” Bageanis said. “We just tried to survive and get out of the half. Both games that we had breakdowns, the other teams have capitalized on those.
“That’s varsity soccer. We have some young guys in the back. We have to limit those plays and the times they happen in a game.”
In a season already fragmented, Morton (0-1-1) has had to play its first two games without Jesus Perez (no relation to Cristian), a two-time Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater. The forward, who scored 11 goals and distributed 14 assists last year, just finished his basketball season.
Jesus Perez is poised to make his season debut against Hinsdale South on Thursday.
“He is going to be another threat we have, either up-top or the outside,” Bageanis said. “We can pretty much put him anywhere, and he brings that energy we need. Plus he is another guy who can finish.”
York looked to utilize its size and physical play to slow down and interrupt the Mustangs’ rhythm. The strategy worked throughout the first half.
Morton pushed its game up and out, playing the ball wider and quicker and forced the Dukes to react to their passing attack.
York was not as quick or disruptive in the second half, and the Mustangs’ ball control created numerous fouls.
That made Morton even harder to defend, and both of its goals originated off restarts.
Alvarez had a crucial hand in both goals.
In the 48th minute on a free kick, he blasted home a beautiful ball from just about the top of the box for the Mustangs’ first goal.
“I usually feel comfortable taking the free kicks,” he said. “We were so close to the goal. I knew I just had to place it really hard; and that’s what I did.”
The goal energized the Mustangs, who continued to push the ball and dictate tempo. Moments later, Alvarez again worked the ball down the left flank when he was knocked down from behind.
His free kick from the the deep left sideline allowed the savvy and industrious Cristian Perez to make the perfect run for the 2-2 tie in the 57th minute.
“Our coach just told me to send it in the 6-yard box. I saw Cristian, and he put it into the net,” Alvarez said.
York recovered from the 1-2 punch to play even for the balance of the game. Garcia made two strong stops in the final 10 minutes.
Sebastian Mayorga replaced starter Christopher Barajas at keeper in the second half for the Mustangs. He found the perfect balance of discretion and ambition, coming off the line a few times to take away the angle.
Mayorga also made a great stop of a difficult ball by Musial, a sidewinder that floated in the wind and nearly glided past his reach.
For their efforts and superb play, York’s Gliatis and Morton’s Giovanni Alvarez shared the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match prize.
Gliatis recorded his third goal of the year, as did Cristian Perez. Alvarez scored his first goal.
“We started playing well after the fouls and the set plays we gave up,” Gliatis said. “That’s how they scored. Going forward, we were playing well and holding the ball and passing and looking for runs.
“We just tried to play well and stick it to them.”
York GK: Mario Aguilar-Garcia D: Timur Turkoglu D: Connor Bare D: Anthony Flores D: Boyd Puckett MF: Yael Sylvestre MF: Sam Musial MF: Jose Herrera MF: Chase McNeill F: Ryan Woolfe F: Kevin Gliatis
Morton GK: Christopher Barajas D: Adrian Salto D: Juan Ramirez D: Julian Yanez MF: Daniel Diaz MF: Jonathan Murillo MF: Giovanni Gallegos MF: Edgar Quintero MF: Cristian Perez F: Ismael Zepeda F: Giovanni Alvarez
Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Kevin Gliatis, jr., F, York; Giovanni Alvarez, jr., F, Morton