Mayer strike tops Prospect,
keeps Fremd in Soccer Bowl contention
Soph's 68th-minute score all Vikings need in 1-0 win
By Mike Garofola
PALATINE -- Fremd maintained its pursuit of a second-straight Mid-Suburban League West Division crown after its 1-0 victory over Prospect at Hildebrandt Field on Thursday evening.
Will Mayer's stunning 68th-minute strike was enough to help the Vikings (7-3-0, 21 points) keep the pressure on rival Barrington whom has the same number of points. The regular season set to end this Tuesday night. Fremd will host Schaumburg, and Barrington travels to Elk Grove.
Viking manager Steve Keller was obviously pleased with the result from a game that featured high energy for sure but had few moments of genuine quality.
"Yes, the effort was there, but it was not one of our sharpest performances of the year," Keller said. "We were a little out of step for most of the night, especially in the first half. A lot of that was (Prospect) who was much better than us in that first half and could have easily put one or two into our net."
It is said that a keeper must make two key saves during a game to help the cause, and that is exactly what Vikings senior Joey Gillespie did for his mates.
With the visiting Knights (4-5-1, 4-4-1) up and running after the opening whistle, Gillespie saved the day with a brave challenge off his line to insure Eryk Limanowka had no time to unleash a close-range shot into an open net.
"When your keeper makes one or two big saves right at the start of the game, it's crucial, plus it inspires the rest of us to be better. Joey really came to play tonight," said a proud Ryan Sapiente, who was just one of a couple underclassmen who were Kellers' first 11. It was Senior Night, and Keller packed his starting lineup with members of the Class of 2021.
Early it was Prospect's Gabriel Predescu, Alejandro Martinez, Declan Flanagan and Limanowka who had far too much pace and creativity with each touch for the Vikings, who struggled defending the visitors as they continued to pressure during an impressive first quarter hour.
"We've been playing really well of late," lamented Limanowka, who watched Gillespie stop Sebastian Ayala, just before Predescu fired over the bar from in close in the early going. "Tonight, we came out and were very good on both sides of the ball, especially. in our attack. We had them under, but couldn't finish our chances. (I) could have put one or two in really early."
"Prospect came out strong," said Sapiente, who was one of three center backs at the start, moved into the midfield and later stationed as the left outside back. "They were all over us in the first 15-20 minutes, but we knew they were a good team because lately they had been playing very well."
The home side finally came to life with a nice 1-2-3 combination that led to Sapiente having a go at Knights keeper, Cole Connor, who himself enjoyed a marvelous night between the sticks.
Twice, during a sequence of corners initiated by the Vikings, Connor went high the air to collect dangerous service set into his box: one from Mayer; the other by Leo Akashi.
"Cole has been amazing for us," offered Knights manager Mike Andrews. "His physicality, technique and instincts are all top-notch, and he helped keep us in the game tonight. (He's) been a difference-maker for us in several of our games."
His counterpart Gillespie was quick to sense danger when he darted off his line without hesitation to cut the angle once again after Martinez and Limanowka got together just moments before the intermission.
"We were fortunate that Prospect did not put away the chances in that first half thanks to Joey. But our inability to match the speed and physical play by (their) midfield led to a lot of problems in our own end," said Keller.
After an important block of a close-range shot from Predescu by sophomore Joey Rodino, Fremd looked more like the side Keller had envisioned at the start of the game.
Sapiente missed wide of the back post with his left-footed effort in the 46th minute. Mayer, who earned Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honors for his play, twice burst free on the left side and skimmed the near post on one effort.
Akashi had enough time to tee-up a 30-yard attempt which found the post.
"Prospect kind of caught us by surprise in that first half. They've been very good, but they were much better than we expected," began Mayer, who in his freshman year played with Akashi and five others on the B team.
"We had the better of the play after the break, we moved the ball quicker and better and were able to create several good chances at their keeper."
Mayer forced a save from Conner in the 55th minute, then held his breath with the rest of his teammates when Prospect's Flanagan ran freely onto a wonderful serve sent into the box by Martinez.
The Knights captain sent his one-timer in the 56th minute just wide.
Predescu followed by going over the bar in between a pair of Vikings corners before Akashi set Mayer free; his close-range shot was turned away by Connor.
Mayer would be rewarded for his sterling effort on this chilly evening when he used his quickness and superb speed to race up the left side. He got himself enough time and space to fire in the eventual game-winner with a brilliant finish.
"I said earlier in the season our young guys would be something to watch," said Sapiente. "Especially Mayer who has electric speed and knows how to use it."
"Leo got a late callup to the varsity when we were freshmen; he deserved it," said Mayer. "So I worked as hard as I could offseason to improve my chances of making the varsity. And with my freshman coach (Chad Jonas) helping me, and now with Keller, I feel like I've continued to improve."
Moment at Mayer's 68th-minute score, Prospect's Flanagan zig-zagged his way through traffic and just inside the box. If not for a strong tackle by Rodino, the Knights senior may have found his way in on Gillespie.
"Gabriel and Alejandro were our two best players tonight," stated Limanowka. "Maybe if we finish a couple of our chances, it's a different outcome."
"I agree with Eryk, Predescu and Martinez played very well for us tonight," began Andrews. "(Alejandro) was so hungry to win, but he was also mindful of what was working and what wasn't/ So he made the proper adjustments.
"Gabriel has been a strong presence for us this season in just about every position: first as our left back; then center mid; and last night at the wing.
"Soccer is a game of 'What ifs,' so when you look back you realize there were a thousand moments that, if you executed things differently, could have an effect on the outcome.
"We also could have been sharper with our touch and our passing, especially in the second half."
After a loss to Barrington on Saturday, the Knights will finish their COVID-19 season with Palatine on Tuesday.
Fremd needs help from Elk Grove to get the West Division's Soccer Bowl bid. Barrington enjoys the tie-breaker advantage should both clubs finish with the same number of overall points. The Broncos topped the Vikings 2-0 in the second game of this season.
G- Cole Connor
D- Sebastian Ayala
D- David Marshall
D- Gavin Kafkakis
D- Alex Mho
M- Rick Lytle
M- Declan Flanagan
M- Ari Kemperas
F- Gabriel Predescu
F- Eryk Limanowka
F- Alejandro Martinez
G- Joey Gillespie
D- Ryan Sapiente
D- Brandon Wozniak
D- Luke Erickson
M- Eli Schoffstall
M- J.T. Temple
M- Cade Sisler
M- Perry Mallinas
M- Nick Austtin
F- Will Pautler
F- Julian Morales
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Will Mayer, so., MF/F, Fremd
Referee: Marek Zachos
Fremd: Mayer (Akashi) 68'