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Game story: Fremd, Rolling Meadows finish without a finish

By Bobby Narang, 09/07/23, 8:45AM CDT


2 OT, scoreless draw disappoints teams, coaches

ROLLING MEADOWS – Players were spread out at various points on the vast soccer pitch/football field at Robert A. Hoese Field on Tuesday night.

Fremd and Rolling Meadows had just finished early Mid-Suburban League action that provided insight, but not the result either team wanted.

After 100 minutes of intense and physical play, each team left the field without a goal.

Players from both teams experienced and expressed different levels of disappointment and frustration over the lack of a winner. Several others sprawled out in various shapes on the turf.

The coaches weren’t immune to the high levels of emotion. Both took a stern approach in the post-game meetings with their players.

Let’s start with Fremd coach Steve Keller. The Vikings took a slow approach to the first two weeks of the season and elected to play in just three games. That was meant to let a young team mesh and gain confidence via practice.

The Vikings (1-1-2, 1-0-1) have only scored twice this season. Both goals came in their 2-0 win over Hersey on Sept. 1.

“I know we got tired, and I know it’s humid; but it didn’t seem like the team wanted to win the game,” Keller said. “There wasn’t that final push or moment of drive or sense of urgency. The positives are we got the shutout. I saw some things from some people that we liked, but it has to improve.

“I feel the same as I do before the game. I have certain expectations, but the biggest frustration is the lack of soccer IQ I see on the field. I want to see IQ. We played like a bunch of individuals. They are better than that. Until we figure that out, we will struggle to score. We have to make sure we play good defense.”

About 25 yards away, the Mustangs (5-1-1, 1-0-1) were in the midst of an extended post-game team meeting under the lights in the nearly empty stadium. Rolling Meadows coach Brett Olson admitted he was frustrated but pointed out several growing points in the draw. Junior goalie Marceli Okonski was certainly busy throughout the long game, even after suffering an in-game injury that sidelined him for a few minutes. He finished with seven saves, two coming in the first 10-minute overtime session.

“We’re not world beaters, but we’re frustrated, especially for guys who have been playing soccer for so long,” Olson said. “Our effort was certainly there, and we told the boys. The guys are battling and playing tough minutes. We were hoping to get three points here and go into Thursday (at Elk Grove) with confidence. 

“(Fremd) had the play in the second half a bit with fresher legs than ours. We had opportunities but we panicked, especially when we got into a couple of spots. Thankfully, we had Marceli in net, and Alex (Chlopek) and Christian (Jablonski) cleaned up a lot of things. 

“Patryk Grzybowski played outstanding, and he was moving back and forth and matching up. I think we’re trying to open up our rotation and get some guys some rest. Our decision-making has to be better. We certainly have individual skill, but it’s about what we have as a group and can put together. 

“We have a lot of guys playing a lot of minutes, so we tested our conditioning on a little bit hotter night. We got a point, so it’s not the end of the world. (Fremd) has an inexperienced group and are working through some stuff. It was a missed opportunity to get three points, mainly with our game plan and what we were hoping to get from it. 

“(Fremd) played really well, and they have some dangerous players. We have to bounce back from it. We’re going to have losses and ties, but this is one I thought we would get. … We have to bounce back from it.”

Fremd senior goalie Bennett Ash was definitely a bright spot in the draw. The first-year full-time starter is making the most of his senior season. He collected eight saves, including six in regulation. Ash showed off his skills with quick reactions to several hard-hit shots and wasn’t afraid of contact. He impressed with a quick save off a header by Rolling Meadows junior standout midfielder Eltayeb Mahmoud in the ninth minute, after which one fan blurted out loudly “that was awesome.”

Mahmoud, who has two goals on the young season, said Tuesday’s game was a good learning lesson for the Mustangs.

“I think we played alright but we have to be clinical and finish our chances in the final third,” Mahmoud said. “We have to finish our chances. I feel we need more composure and have to clean up on the simple mistakes. For me, I should probably have more goals. I have to stay calm, play simple and the chances will come.”

Ash endured a strong wind in the first half that limited Fremd’s ability to move the ball up the field. He helped force overtime with three saves in the final 40 minutes. Mahmoud, in particular, tested Ash’s abilities. His blinding speed, big-time foot skills and nonstop energy led to several quality chances, both via teammates or from his passing ability.  Ash secured the draw with an excellent save with 55 seconds remaining in the second overtime.

“We got the shutout, but we are not super happy we couldn’t put one away,” Ash said. “Overall, I think we are not working as much as a team as we all would like to. I’m just here to be the last line of defense, call out mistakes and make sure the defense is dropping back.

“Toward the first half, I knew we had to get the ball up when we could, but I couldn’t get the ball as far I would’ve liked because of the wind. In the second half, we started to hit our stride and were able to get the ball higher and connect more, just not as much as we would’ve liked. 

“It’s all between the ears. We just have to get our mental game and keep fighting and fighting. We can absolutely turn this around.”

A three-year varsity player, Ash said he’s cherishing playing a key role for the Vikings.

“Last year I started about 10 games because our senior (keeper) got a concussion,” Ash said. “It’s been fun. I’m just enjoying it, being out here and leading all the lower classmen. I can be a leader and try and mold some kids.”

Not to be outdone, although a year younger than his counterpart, Okonski added many more memorable saves to his immense highlight reel. The junior goalie rebounded from a small cut to his face in the ninth minute. He only sat out a few minutes before returning to the net.

“I came out for the ball and as I caught the ball, I got hit underneath the chin,” Okonski said.

He had a brilliant game, highlighted by an eight-minute span early in the second half that included two saves. His diving tap-out save in the 61st minute merited a big round of applause from the pro-Mustangs crowd.

“This game showed our team loves to fight and has a lot of passion,” Okonski said. “We kept fighting until the end. I saw a lot of people hustling. We just need to improve on our finishing. I felt if we improved our finishing, we could’ve won or had a better score. I love this high level of soccer, but I’m used to it from club soccer.”

The extra rounds of soccer provided a good test for both teams.

Rolling Meadows senior defender Grzybowski, a second-year varsity player, played all 100 minutes.

“Defensively, we’re a great team and play well from the back and through our midfield switching the ball, but the final third we need to improve our finishing and play,” he said. “(Fremd’s) defense was good, but the chances were there. 

“I’m very tired right now. My legs are cooked. I pushed through it. In my mind, I wanted to push through to get this win. That was my mentality coming into this game. That’s what I finished with.”

Starting lineups

GK: Bennett Ash
D: Liam Gilbert
D: Kristian Toshev
D: Nathaniel Chiang
D: Cameron Williams
MF: Luke McDermott
MF: Gaku Yuguchi
MF: Kyle Grasse
MF: Stefan Smolak
F: Nate Schmeling
F: Adam Kowalski
Rolling Meadows
GK: Marceli Okonski
D: Alex Chlopek
D: Christian Jablonski
D: Patryk Grzybowski
D: Cristian Sanchez
MF: Eltayeb Mahmound
MF: Brian Diaz
MF: Kalvin Lagunas
MF: Dash Lockley
MF: Cris Simental
F: Alex Kociubinski

Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Marceli Okonski, jr., GK, Rolling Meadows;
Bennett Ash, sr., GK, Fremd

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring 

Second half
No scoring 

First overtime
No scoring
Second overtime
No scoring