NORTHBROOK — Pressure is an applied vise in soccer. It assumes different shapes depending on the circumstance and opportunity.
At times it is glancing, other times it is seemingly suffocating.
The result is typically the surest means to achieve scoring opportunities.
“From the start of the game, we wanted to pressure them and keep the intensity high,” Glenbrook North midfielder Steven Rhee said.
That intensity off set pieces and in the run of play set the stage for the Spartans’ momentum swing in the the first-week marquee showdown.
Rhee scored twice and the Spartans converted two penalty kick opportunities in an impressive 3-1 victory over city power Lane in front of a crowd of approximately 150 Friday night.
“We knew this was going to be a really tough match,” Rhee said. “They came in ranked ... and we knew they had a great tournament run last year.
“We didn’t put them on a pedestal or think they were better than us. We knew we could come out and play our game.”
A sectional finalist last year, Lane (1-1-0) was listed at no. 20 in Chicagoland Soccer’s First 50 preseason poll.
The Champions are already regrouping after injuries knocked out some crucial offensive pieces including Ethan Peet, who is lost for the season after suffering an ACL tear.
Lane has size, speed and athleticism.
Forward Wilson Smiejek and midfielder Benjamin Dopp each earned Chicagoland Soccer All-State Watch List recognition last year.
Glenbrook North (2-0-0) has shown a sharp and fluid attack in the first week of a season that features a return of the old with former coach Paul Vignocchi back directing the team.
Vignocchi previously stepped down two years ago.
He worked as a consultant and goalkeeper coach for his successor Paul Gibbs last season. When Gibbs was unable to secure a permanent teaching position at the school, the took a coaching and teaching position at Libertyville.
That brought Vignocchi back.
Coming off a sharp performance in its 4-1 season-opening victory against on Buffalo Grove on Aug. 21 in the Central Suburban League/Mid-Suburban League Challenge, the Spartans sustained their high-level pressure and creativity against Lane.
“They did a very good job of cluttering the middle of our attack, and when they did get it out, they took it out fast,” Lane coach Andrew Ricks said.
The pressure acquired different iterations. Midway through the first half, Chase Petersen created the breakthrough.
The skilled defender is one of the top restart threats around. His specialty is the long throw-in, and it optimizes the Spartans’ attack.
“I started doing it when I was a kid. I’d throw it around the 30-yard line, and it would go down the line, and maybe I’d get a corner out of it,” Petersen said.
“It definitely changes the defense, because once you’re inside their end, you know if they kick it out, it’s the same as a corner kick.”
In the 21st minute, Petersen shaped the game. His throw-in yielded a bang-bang action that ended with a Lane player called for a push inside the box.
Rhee smashed home the penalty kick attempt for a 1-0 halftime lead.
The game irrevocably changed at the start of the second half.
Glenbrook North seized control after withstanding considerable Lane pressure over the final stretch of the first half.
In the opening moments of the new half, Jackson Lee made an electric push into the Lane end, and was clipped from behind.
On the ensuing penalty kick, Lane keeper Andres Murdock got a touch moving to his left, but the velocity of the penalty kick by Ian Lee (no relation to Jackson Lee) was sufficient to elude his grasp.
A game that seemed up for the taking suddenly saw Glenbrook North with a two-goal advantage.
“We started to slow down by the end of the first half, and they definitely had the better play,” Rhee said. “To come out like we did in the second half and create the pressure, that led to the second penalty kick. It was just huge.”
Spartans’ keeper Gil Meyers posted seven saves, making quick and alert responses to Lane’s actions.
If the Champions had the relative advantage in possession and shots, Glenbrook North was more efficient and exacting.
In the 54th minute, working off a counter, Glenbrook North put the hammer down.
Midfielder Brady Spiggos broke free down the right flank and blasted a ball from about 16 yards that hit off the bar.
It played wide left, and a hustling Spiggos earned a second chance. First to the ball, he sent a cross to the top of the box.
Rhee timed his run beautifully and drilled home the dagger from 15 yards.
Rhee earned the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor for his excellent play.
The third-year varsity player has come of age.
“I think when I first started on the team as a sophomore two years ago, I played out wide. My game has evolved,” he said. “Now I work more in the middle, and I love that. I am able to get on the ball and use my feet, and pass or take my shots.
Lane is a team with many intriguing parts, and skilled pieces. Now the quest is to bring it all together.
Smiejek is brilliant with either foot. His creativity and ability to chisel out space is a big weapon. He makes everything go.
“We have a lot of new players who have never played varsity before,” he said. “So it’s about getting them acclimated at this level in these early games.”
Lane achieved success in its middle attack and pushing numbers wide.
Dopp is another physical, skilled talent with a fluid first-step and the ability to create off the dribble.
“As great as last season was, it took us about two-thirds of the way to figure everything out,” Dopp said. “We are going to study now and look at everything and figure out what we have to do.”
Forward Grayson Trinter, a target with size and force, was another dynamic piece for the Champions.
The team sees its promise.
“We’re a work in progress,” Ricks said.
“We are always improving,” Dopp said. “I think we have that growth mindset. We played Glenbard North on Monday, and we didn’t play our best but pulled the result. Today was the opposite. If we keep improving, we are going to win the games we deserve.”
Lane averted the shutout with the 67th-minute goal by Bryan Gauto off a corner from Kanan Kraus.
“The game is all about the quality of chances,” Ricks said. “We have to find ways to create and finish our chances or half-chances.”
Glenbrook North walked off its pitch with satisfaction.
“This was a great early season game against a high-quality opponent,” Vignocchi said. “Nobody is going to want to play Lane at the end of the season. They are a quality, very dangerous team. This was a great game to test us and see where we are.”
GK: Andres Murdock
D: Alexander Maya
D: Emiliano Gonzalez
D: Will Huge
D: Jasper Grove
MF: Adrian Onofre
MF: Alex Bornstein
MF: Ben Dopp
MF: Bobby McMahon
F: Grayson Trinter
F: Wilson Smiejek
GK: Gil Meyers
D: Jordan Elliott
D: Chase Petersen
D: Sam Lappin
D: Ben Melnick
MF: Kieran Lapland
MF: Jackson Lee
MF: Steven Rhee
MF: Ian Lee
MF: Yianni Caparos
F: Michael Miller
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Steven Rhee, sr., MF, Glenbrook North
Glenbrook North: Steven Rhee (penalty kick), 21st minute
Glenbrook North: Ian Lee (penalty kick), 41st minute
Glenbrook North: Rhee (Brady Spiggos), 54th minute
Lane: Bryan Gauto (Kanan Kraus), 67th minute