NORTHFIELD — Sometimes the best laid plans are fortified by the peculiar or unaccountable.
Conditions or circumstances rode in the favor of Libertyville. The Wildcats were not going to turn a blind eye.
“The first 10 minutes of any game are really important, and I think that really decides who wins just based off of that,” Libertyville forward Noah Finnema said.
Time, field, conditions and location all broke in the Wildcats’ favor.
Libertyville scored two goals in the first 14 minutes and held on for the 2-1 victory over Loyola in the opening game of Group A pool play in the Northside College Showcase at New Trier on Saturday morning.
“I don’t think their backline was ready for our speed or the quickness of our attack at the start of the game,” Libertyville midfielder Oliver Allen said.
Allen’s second-minute goal established the fast momentum and dominant early narrative for the Wildcats (2-0-0), who were ranked 49th in the First 50, Chicagoland Soccer’s preseason state ranking.
The secondary factors — an early morning start, playing on the tight and narrow auxiliary field because of a field hockey game, the gusting winds — all factored in the blazing start by the Wildcats.
“That start just gave us an extra energy boost,” Finnema said.
By contrast, Loyola (1-1-0) was stunned -- not sure entirely what hit them.
“It’s very tough to go down early in a game like this,” Loyola coach Justin Dunn said.
“I was proud of the guys and how they responded. I thought we were able to move the ball as best as we could. I don’t think we are as used to playing on this fast surface.”
Libertyville took command ultra early by pushing numbers forward and catching the Ramblers on their heels.
Forward Lukas Krzeminski accelerated in space down the middle of the field, and slotted a ball on the left flank to the streaking Allen.
Allen took one touch, and smashed home a left-footed ball from about 14 yards that perfectly caught the inside of the back post.
Just 1:22 seconds into the game, Libertyville had the lead and a control it never relinquished.
The Allen goal signified phase one of the operation.
The alert and intuitive actions of Krzeminski completed the stunning opening by the Wildcats.
In the 14th minute, he detected a delayed reaction of the Ramblers’ back to his sideline throw. He took a quick action and put the ball in play from the left edge.
This is where the field played a huge role. The smaller dimensions of the secondary space made possible an easier and quicker throw. He saw Finnema in the middle, virtually alone, inside the top of the box.
Finnema was the first player to the ball and hammered home his shot from about 15 yards for the 2-0 lead.
“I think we are still working on communication,” Dunn said. “I think this is something we have to continue.”
For his resourcefulness and quick-thinking that guided the Wildcats to two quick and psychologically deflating goals. Krzeminski the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match distinction.
“Our midfield is really good at switching on the field, and we get a lot of switch attacks or quick actions we are able to capitalize on,” Krzeminski said. “What did we score? Probably two goals in the first 10 minutes?”
Soccer is nothing if not curious. After the remarkable bravado and stunning opening actions by the Wildcats, Loyola quickly found its own groove.
After taking the two uppercut blows to their collective jaw, the Ramblers settled into their attack.
In their 3-0 season-opening victory over Payton on Monday, the Ramblers broke from a scoreless halftime with an early second half goal.
Saturday, Loyola steeled itself, and began to organize and counter. The Ramblers generated three corner kicks in the first half.
Corner specialist Kevin Sicena served a couple of balls that created dangerous moments in the box. Loyola was on the ball, but the wealth of bodies and interior traffic prevented a clean look at the goal.
Sicena and Carrera also collaborated on some excellent 1-2 actions.
The Libertyville backline was quick and sufficiently decisive in shutting down space.
The two-goal cushion allowed them to concede possession, and simply flood the back with numbers.
As hard as they tried, Loyola could not fully negotiate or cut through the blockage.
Ramblers midfielder Townes Robertson created some sharp and telling moments throughout the first half. On separate occasions, he smashed free kicks into the box that Loyola worked feverishly to get on the end of.
“We have a different combination of newer and more experienced players, and right now I think it’s just a matter of us trying to get everyone to mesh or jell as quickly as possible,” Robertson said
Off movement, midfielder Jack Carretta blasted a shot off the top of the bar.
As a positive sign of the Ramblers’ relentless activity and refusal to concede, Loyola scored in the closing seconds.
Forward Luke Ojala broke free on the left edge and delivered a quick-touch goal off a ball from Carretta.
Loyola’s program has remained resilient and competitive despite four different coaches in four years.
Dunn is back for the second time after spending a year as the interim coach two years ago. He assisted Shannon Hartinger’s girls’ program last spring.
“The last time, two years ago, I had a week to try and figure everything out,” Dunn said.
“I know a lot of the guys from when I was here the last time. It’s fun to be back with everybody. I’ve had a couple of months to get everything together, and I think the quality is there.”
Libertyville is a team of youth. That energy took off with all the right moves.
“We talked about coming out and starting fast,” Libertyville coach Kevin Thunholm said.
“We had our first game Monday against Streamwood, and we looked like a young team. We played scared in the first half of that game. We got our confidence in the second half, and scored two goals and that bled into today.”
GK: JP Devron
D: Patrick Kozak
D: Oscar Vazquez
D: Oscar Ryczek
D: Jack McBrearty
MF: Townes Robertson
MF: Rayden Dominquez
MF: Kevin Sicena
MF: Jack Carretta
F: Jeremiah Gyorgy
F: Luke Ojala
GK: Andy Hauser
D: Jackson Kern
D: Henry Bownas
D: Ben Goldberg
D: Max Doshi
MF: Oliver Allen
MF: Nicky Dawson
MF: Matthew Underwood
MF: Mateo Portillo
F: Lukas Krzeminski
F: Noah Finnema
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Lukas Krzeminski, jr., F, Libertyville
Libertyville: Oliver Allen (Lukas Krzeminski), 2nd minute
Libertyville: Noah Finnema (Krzeminski), 14th minute
Loyola: Luke Ojala (Jack Carretta), 80th minute