NORTHFIELD -- Aidan O’Neill has this penalty kick thing down.
One week after putting in two against Round Lake in the championship game of the Northside College Showcase, the senior midfielder was at it again when host new Trier took on Hinsdale Central on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
With the fifth-ranked Trevians trailing the 25th-ranked Red Devils late in the second half, the Northwestern recruit drew a foul as he made his way to the goal, earning him a penalty kick with 12 minutes, 59 seconds remaining.
O’Neill calmly stepped up to the penalty area and drilled a shot past the Hinsdale Central keeper Martin Contreras to secure a 2-2 tie.
“Every time I step up to the ball for a penalty kick, I envision myself scoring,” he said. “Having that vision in your mind builds confidence.”
Both managers were pleased with how their squads played against competition they knew would be stout and would also help prepare them for their rigorous conference schedules.
“That was a high-level contest against a team that’s not only one of the best in the Chicagoland area, but the region,” Hinsdale Central manager Michael Wiggins said. “They gave us a lot of challenges, forced us to solve things tactically.
“You can’t recreate being down 1-0 to a team like New Trier in training, so not only evening things up but taking the lead said a lot about our group.”
“This game offered us the test that we needed,” New Trier manager Matt Ravenscraft said. “It’s the first time we’ve been chasing, that always tells you a lot about your team.
“I felt like after a couple of minutes of being unsettled, the boys found their rhythm again and that’s what led to Aidan getting the penalty.”
O’Neill didn’t just affect the game with his scoring prowess, though.
He tied for the team lead in assists with his third of the season when he set up Noah Capocchi’s first varsity goal in the 16th minute. The junior forward had just come on and scored in the first minute he was on the pitch.
“I tried to stay high as I could to give both Adan and Cole (Driscoll) the room to go up and create some chances,” Capocchi said. “We did exactly that. I stayed up, Aidan made a move, got off the defender; and it came right to me.
“It was my time. I just hit it and put it back post.”
Set pieces have been a big thing that both squads work hard on in practice, and it was evident throughout the match.
The Red Devils’ first goal, by Enzo Cinque, indirectly came off of a free kick by Luca Davis. Davis served up the ball into the box, saw it bounce in front of the goal, get past the goalie and Cinque was there for the tap-in with 6:18 left in the first half.
“The mentality is to just go to goal when you see a ball like that,” Cinque said. “To be able to get that felt really good, because it helped boost our confidence knowing that we could go and play with those guys.
“When you get down like we did, you can’t stop playing the game. You have to keep playing and doing what you’re doing, feel good about yourself and feel confident.”
The Red Devils came close to scoring almost exactly nine minutes earlier when Robbie Rocque put a shot on frame, but Trevians defender Kevin Farina was there to clear the ball right before it crossed the line.
“That’s just how the game goes,” Wiggins said. “You can’t just look at that and say ‘should of’ or ‘too bad,’ that kind of stuff. You have to get it done.”
“It might be a center back’s dream to get a clearance like that, but certainly not the coach,” Ravenscraft said with a laugh. “We do have a lot of trust in our goalies and backline. Kevin Farina made a wonderful save. That was a special moment.”
After going into the half tied, Hinsdale Central did something that no other team had done all year: take the lead on New Trier (7-0-1).
Five minutes into the second half, Martin Montoya took a ball on the right edge of the box and unleashed a shot that passed diving New Trier keeper Shafer Brahm into the top left corner that gave the Red Devils a 2-1 lead.
“Once I was at the top of the box and got the ball, I heard people in the crowd. I heard my dad, say ‘Shoot it!’ and I just knew,” Montoya said. “I’m a lefty, so when I got it on my left, I just put it where I wanted.
“Getting that goal was huge for our confidence, because New Trier is a really good team. To be able to do that on a team that fought the whole way was big.”
“Once they got their second goal and it was 2-1, we had about a 20-minute stretch where they couldn’t get a shot,” O’Neill said. “It was all about us having confidence on the ball and knowing we’re down 2-1, you have to give it your all. You do that and the energy flows your way.”
Being down for the first time in a season can stun a team, but the Trevians’ leadership helped them right the ship and allow them to hold control for portions of the second half leading up to the equalizer.
“It’s sort of like a shock almost, because you feel like it’s 1-1, you’re in this game and they score to make it 2-1 and all of the sudden, you’re in your head,” O’Neill said. “This survival type of instinct kicks in.”
Both teams prepare for the start of conference play. New Trier gets ninth-ranked and undefeated Glenbrook North at home Monday and 24th-ranked Maine South at home as on Thursday. The Red Devils (4-1-2) get one more week of nonconference play before conference action starts Sept. 19 against no. 3 Oak Park and River Forest.
GK: Martin Contreras
Def: Enzon Cinque
Def: Austin Ward
MF: Ardit Abdullai
MF: Austen Szurgot
MF: Martin Montoya
MF: Nolan Spence
MF: Michael DiTomasso
F: Matthew Gantar
F: Robbie Rocque
F: Luca Davies
GK: Shafer Brahm
Def: Liam Myers
Def: Harrison Hahner
Def: Kevin Farina
MF: Ian Vichnick
MF: Aidan O’Neill
MF: Ollie Fernandez
MF: Gabe Yoder
F: Tony Markus
F: Ethan Green
F: Cole Driscoll
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Aidan O’Neill, sr., MF, New Trier
New Trier - Noah Cappochi (O’Neill), 16th minute
Hinsdale Central - Enzo Cinque (unassisted), 34th minute
Hinsdale Central - Martin Montoya (unassisted), 45th minute
New Trier - O’Neill (PK), 68th minute