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Game story: Metea Valley's grit gets job done vs. DeKalb

By Chris Walker, 09/06/23, 11:45PM CDT


Mustangs take 3-1 win, but still working on consistency

AURORA – Some days, a victory can just be a grind.
That’s what Metea Valley needed to do to win its home and DuPage Valley Conference openers Tuesday night against DeKalb.
Sahil Khare scored the go-ahead goal early in the second half, and Anthony Hildreth added an insurance score to lead the Mustangs to a 3-1 victory.
“It’s funny, we’re in our fifth game and in all three games we’ve lost, we’ve played top-notch soccer,” said Mustangs coach Josh Robinson of one-goal defeats against no. 12 St. Charles East, no. 24 Maine South and honorable mention Leyden. “It’s the style we want to play, knocking the ball around and moving quick. In the two games we’ve won we’ve had to play a grittier game, because we kind of had not played to our technical standards.”
Metea Valley has the skills to play attractive soccer.
“This is the first time we’ve had a technical team in a couple of years and for whatever reason we struggled with it today,” Robinson said. “(Maybe) the wind, the pressure of what (DeKalb did)? We had the same thing happen with Wheaton Academy. 

“We didn’t play technically strong today, and it caused us some problems. But in the second half, all of a sudden, we started playing technically better and then you saw the game get better. We were playing much more into our style.”
With the teams deadlocked at 1-1, Metea Valley junior Sahil Khare was simply looking for an opportunity to pounce on something to try to give the Mustangs the lead. He got it after senior midfielder Graham Leman fired a shot that rebounded his way in the 47th minute. Khare was named Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match for netting the game-winning goal.
“One of the forwards (Leman) shot it, and I was on the edge and crashed the keeper,” Khare said. “I was hoping I’d get the ball. It bounced right in front of the keeper, so I just tapped it in.”
Khare acknowledged that the intermission was focused on the offense and taking chances. The Mustangs turned that dialogue into the turning point of the game, retaking the lead and then advancing it.
“That was huge,” Khare said. “We talked at halftime about how we need to build our offense and start taking shots. I think we did that in the second half and really dominated. I feel like it was a really good second half performance.”
It got one goal better when junior midfielder Anthony Hildreth gave the Mustangs a two-goal cushion in the 76th minute.
“I saw the defense was collapsing to the left so I cut across and beat the defender going to my right,” he said. “I shot it, got the deflection and our third goal.”
Hildreth’s presence on the attack was constant and the result of continued hard work.
“I thought we were very good with creating,” he said. “It would be nice to finish some more, but I’m glad we were able to finish the ones we had. The creating was on-point today.”
The Mustangs did not allow the conditions affect their play. With the breeze at their backs in the first half, they scored once. They bettered that effort against the wind.
“We tried to keep the ball on the ground and not let the wind affect it,” Hildreth said. “We did a pretty good job of that today which allowed us to create as many chances as we did and finish them off.”
Before the Mustangs recaptured the lead, DeKalb (1-4-0, 0-1-0) showed resolve to tie the game at 1-1.
“I thought it was a spirited game, and we’ve been struggling with the competitive side of the game,” Barbs coach P.J. Hamilton said. “I liked how we competed. And I liked our Saturday (practice) showing. I thought Monday’s session was the best session of the year, and that was at 7 a.m. on Labor Day. 

“I would like to see us be a little more clinical and have a little more discipline, but the effort was here again and those are things we’ll take and move forward on. We can clean the other things up.”
Senior Chris Alatorre cleaned-up a shot from Matthew Tuszynski to tie the match in the 30th minute.
“When the ball was coming to me, I heard teammates in the back, and I just went with the shot,” he said. “It felt like a really close game, but a couple of mistakes cost us. But we were playing well. It was really our best game of the whole season, and we’ve got some big games coming up.”
The Barbs received a boost from senior Joshua DeLosSantos, who returned from a broken wrist to contribute defensive minutes off the bench.
“I broke my wrist at the end of July while playing with my brother,” DeLosSantos said. “It’s kind of embarrassing how it happened, that’s all I’m going to say. I’m glad to be back here with my teammates.”
Alatorre said having DeLosSantos back should provide a spark to the backline with the added level of defense he provides.
“Losing one of our defenders who had the most minutes last year has been hard,” he said. “We’ve been switching people all over the field so having him back is good. He’s a strong part of the backline.”
Cuautle was able to beat that backline to get the Mustangs on the scoreboard in the 25th minute, but the lead didn’t last long.
“We just needed to get more comfortable on the ball and without the ball,” he said. “We have to see our movement before it even happens so we can read ourselves a little bit better. I feel like we’ll be a good team this season.”
With players adjusting to roles and adapting to playing together, the challenge to get on the same page can be tough.
“It all depends on the experience that you have playing with different people,” Cuautle said. “It can be hard to adapt to a new team, which is happening here, but I feel like we’ll get it done pretty soon.”
Robinson said his crew is working toward finding an identity, and he’s excited to see what comes of it. He is a big fan of this group.
“We’re still trying to work on who we are and how do we balance what we do technically with that grittiness,” he said. “Both of those have to happen for us to be successful. We love coaching these kids. They’re awesome. They’re fun, and we have a blast together. I think I want them to have success, because they’re such a fun group.”
At times on Tuesday, they looked especially dangerous.
“The combination in the middle of the field is a blast sometimes,” Robinson said. “We still have work to do in the final third, but what I was happy with today was we were getting in behind them. We probably missed some chances to put away, but we were getting behind them. That second goal came from getting behind them.”

Metea Valley jumped right back into action Wednesday night, when they traveled to meet 25th-ranked Hinsdale Central (5-1-1). The red-hot Red Devils prevailed 4-1 for their fourth-straight win. Leman scored off a Michael Senese helper for the Mustangs (2-4-0, 1-0-0).

Starting lineups
GK: Dominique Garcia
D: Jack Ager
D: Ruari Bengford-Breneisen
D: Ian Wickens-Walther
D: Gustavo Mendez
MF: Daniel Blancas
MF: Erick Talamantes
MF: Matt Tuszysnki
MF: Henry Garcia-Alvarez
MF: Sean Kolkeback
F: Mauricio Jasso
Metea Valley
GK: Ravi Shah
F: Abel Lopez
F: Cole Hatfield
D: Cameron Keys
D: Jack Kusumpa
D: Ethan Arbetman
D: Josh Saarnio
D: Tony Cuautle
MF: Anthony Hildreth
MF: Brandon Loos
MF: Sahil Khare
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Sahil Khare jr., MF, Metea Valley

Scoring summary

First half
MV: Tony Cuautle (Michael Senese), 25’
DK: Chris Alatorre (Matthew Tuszynski), 30’
Second half
MV: Sahil Khare (Cole Hatfield), 47’
MV: Anthony Hildreth (Graham Leman), 76’