By Patrick Z. McGavin
CHICAGO — The leaders of the St. Francis offense have a lot of experience together.
Coach Jim Winslow directs the attack. His son Cooper, a four-year starter, is the vocal instrument on the field.
Entering the season, both father and son recognized the need to shake up the Spartans’ early season ritual.
“Except for the pandemic season we have been playing in the Lake Park tournament,” Cooper said.
“We play all of those big 3A schools -- four games in five or six days -- and they kill us. And they kill our legs. There was no sense of continuing that, to play and lose to York 8-0. Other than getting games and getting fitness, there was no reason.”
This season the Spartans played just one game in the first two weeks.
“I scheduled two games, and the game with Timothy was postponed,” the coach said. “This is my best team, but we never have a lot of depth.”
For more than an hour of playing time, the fresh St. Francis squad showed out shrewdly and tactically against talented DePaul.
A set-piece goal by lanky defender Patrick Spahn in the 16th minute held up half well into the second half as the Spartans defense made timely and efficient plays at the point of the attack to thwart DePaul.
However, the tide turned quickly and decisively against the St. Francis.
Forward Jay Carroll scored two goals 40 seconds apart off developing pressure.
“I think we just woke up and wanted to play more in that second half,” Carroll said.
He secured the hat trick in the closing moments that punctuated the 3-1 victory in a Chicago Catholic League cross-over match Tuesday night.
DePaul (5-1-0) has only lost to undefeated Notre Dame.
St. Francis’ strategy was formulated to gird itself for the rigors of the Chicago Catholic League.
It’s a new day for the Spartans (1-1-0), who shifted ended their run in the Metro Suburban Conference after last school year.
The other smaller private schools from the league formed the Chicagoland Christian Conference.
“With both soccer and football, this is going to be a tough and challenging transition for the next couple of years,” Cooper said. “I also kick for the football team, and we are playing two defending state champions and a defending state semifinalist in football.”
The futbol Spartans feature a sharp blend of size, skill and some physically talented players like Winslow, fellow forward Nicholas Tisjlar and midfielders Marco Costabile and Misrael Diaz.
The team showed pace, toughness, and athleticism for much of the game.
After the traditional back and forth volleying of styles and counter movements, the Spartans generated some strong pressure.
Capturing the ball at the top of the box in the 15th minute, Costabile hammered a left-footed rocket ball that just skipped wide of the far post. Its deflection resulted in a corner kick.
Winslow got enough air under the ball with his service that the 6-foot-4 Spahn broke through for a sharp one-touch ball in front of the net for the opening goal.
“It was kind of a lucky goal,” Spahn said. “It kind of deflected, and I was fortunate to get a piece of it and get it back in.”
Playing just one game the first two weeks of the season enabled the team to jell in practice and figure out roles and identities with newcomers young and old.
“I didn’t play for two years, because I was playing club,” Costabile said.
“Adapting to playing high school soccer is not always that easy. I felt kind of off today. I was trying to dribble too much, or just trying to do too much. I think the other new guys, especially the ones coming up from the lower levels, just have to get used to playing against good competition.”
Carter Clark played the first half at keeper for the Spartans. His activity and willingness to engage and take on some of the DePaul players had obvious benefits.
He had five saves, maintaining the St. Francis lead, by doing whatever was necessary to deny the Rams’ opportunities, including several point-blank shots that he turned back
Spahn and Johnathon Yarusso, the other center back, did their part beautifully as disruptive forces.
In the middle attack, Peter Williams, John Coco and Luke Argamasilla created pressure and pushed numbers forward.
Nathan Magnuszewski replaced Clark at keeper in the second half. Rangy and dynamic, he adapted to the DePaul pressure with cool confidence.
He elevated and blocked a shot by Nico Chavarria in the 63rd minute.
The moment also symbolized a rupture -- St. Francis desperately trying to hold the lead and withstand the DePaul attack.
Eventually the combined pressure took its toll.
On the resulting corner kick from the left wing, Chavarria played a ball into the box that was directed to Jack Lovell, who slotted the ball to Carroll on the left wing.
Carrol walked in and blasted a shot from about nine yards for the equalizer.
“We were not really awake during that first half,” Carroll said. “There was a lot of uncertainty.
“With my game and style, I like to take on defenders. I like to press with our team, and we were able to do that.”
Newly reinvigorated by the goal, DePaul did not let up, immediately creating pressure that resulted in another goal from the same left edge.
St. Francis was again caught off guard as Malachi McDonagh controlled the initial ball and served a clean ball left that Carroll finished from a virtually identical location.
“At that point, we just had all the momentum, and the adrenaline just kicked in,” Carroll said.
St. Francis was left to ponder what might have been.
“They were able to finish their opportunities,” Cooper Winslow said. “We had some chances to do that, and we had some breakdowns defensively.
“This is something we have to work on, and not let one goal break us down like that.”
Carroll earned the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match for his play.
In the 78th minute, keeper Joey Galante initiated a classic counter against the forward push of the Spartans.
He blasted out a ball about 75 yards that Carroll got to while eluding the rushing Magnuszewski moving off his line.
Carroll’s touch squeezed past for the finishing goal. His first hat-trick of the season doubled his goal total to six.
While St. Francis must regroup after the loss, the positive signs and encouraging moments were self-evident.
“Our top 11 guys are very good,” Cooper Winslow said. “They do a lot of good things out there.
“We have to get our second- and third-rotation players to catch up. We got some good minutes from everybody tonight, and we are going to be ready for the next couple of weeks.”
GK: Carter Clark
D: Nick Madden
D: Patrick Spahn
D: Johnathon Yarusso
D: Justin Klein
MF: Peter Williams
MF: Marco Costabile
MF: Luke Argamasilla
MF: John Coco
F: Cooper Winslow
F: Nicholas Tisjlar
GK: Joey Galante
D: Max Galindo
D: Ryan Drayton
D: Jack Lovell
D: Malachy McDonagh
MF: Nico Chavarria
MF: Louis Sharp
MF: Charlie Raynaert
MF: Dominic Scandariato
F: Jay Carroll
F: Francesco Sessa
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Jay Carroll, jr., F, DePaul
St. Francis: Patrick Spahn (Cooper Winslow), 16th minute
DP: Jay Carroll (Jack Lovell), 63rd minute
DP: Carroll (Malachy McDonagh), 64th minute
DP: Carroll (Joey Galante), 78th minute
Tag(s): Burlington Central