PARK RIDGE -- Second half goals just three minutes apart from Maine South’s Dexter Kelleher and Nick Milkowski helped secure a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night over Glenbrook South that delivered three points to the hosts in the Central Suburban League South Division standings.
The Hawks are 2-for-2 this week after taking a 2-0 Body Armor contest against Carmel a day earlier. Maine South (7-3-0, 1-0-0) was brimming with confidence in anticipation of its league opener.
"Carmel was organized, and tough defensively, so that game helped prepare us for GBS, who are well coached and always a difficult opponent for us to play," said Maine South manager Dan States, who will retire at the end of the 2023-24 school year after 32 years in education.
"We've been playing real well lately, and if we play like we did in tonight's second half, I know that we'll be able to compete with anyone," added Zach Malinsky, who with his teammate Sebastian Bonifacy shared the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor for their terrific work on both sides of the ball in the middle of the park for the home-side.
Glenbrook South (6-3-2, 0-1-1) entered the game off a 1-0 nonconference loss at Hersey on Saturday. The Titans were undermanned due to ACT Testing and illness but still put up a strong fight.
Back at full strength for its second league match, manager Reggie Lara's club enjoyed more of the play and possession during the opening quarter hour than their hosts yet were able to create just one quality attempt on frame.
"This game was reminiscent of our game with Hersey the other day, (solid) first half but not so in the second half," said Lara.
"We played pretty well in the first half, doing a lot of things we set out to do, and even getting the first goal of the game," began senior and tri-captain Nathan Halpern.
"But we let them get that first goal right back before the break, when we let them have too much time and space while playing way too sloppy. They had more control of the game during the entire second half."
There was a nervous moment off the opening whistle for the Titans, but sophomore defender T.J. Philips took one off the line. A subsequent Maine South corner kick yielded nothing.
The visitors responded with some terrific ball movement and possession to create a chance for Conor Beach through Halpern and Chris Vazquez. But that ended with Darragh Connolly blocking Beach's blast from near the spot.
In addition to the solid work in the middle of the park from Glenbrook South in their 3-4-3 formation, the backline of Marben Rivera, Philips and Paul Scherer also provided quality service up-top. Scherer was notable for several early long balls to his frontline mates.
"Glenbrook South played really well in the first half," said States. “(Their) midfield was winning a lot of balls and their backline was organized and solid. We made an adjustment or two at the break in order to deal with the way they were playing.”
The pendulum of play swung in favor of the home side when a Cristian Abdala attempt from 25 yards forced Titans keeper Michael Falk into action.
States brought on Bartek Galimski in the 17th minute, and the sophomore made his presence felt almost immediately.
The left-footer used a hint of a touch to send in a lovely looping ball into the box that Abdala ran on to before sending an effort wide in the 21st minute.
Moments later, Galimski dispossessed a Titans player near the midline, then quickly connected with Will Smucker, whose return pass saw Galimski tee-up from 22 yards.
The fierce shot headed to the right of the Glenbrook South keeper, who extended to make a brave save to keep things level.
The Titans wasted consecutive corners, each created by Matteus Johansson. A free kick from Matteus Carvalho came next after the efforts of teammates Vazquez, and Johansson led to the 33rd-minute chance.
Carvalho, one of the top attacking players for the Titans, struck for the opener four minutes later to give the visitors their only lead of the game. But Glenbrook South's sdvantage was fleeting. Maine South tied the game a mere 60 seconds later.
"We were playing well, and managed to put one in on (them) right before the half, then let down long enough, and they made us pay for it," said a disappointed Lara.
Bonifacy did the honor with a sensational cracker that went upper-90 from 30 yards.
"Just a big goal from Sebastian to get us back even, and send us into the break with the momentum," said States.
It was after the intermission that the Hawks attack came alive, thanks in part to some precision passing, quick play and plenty of movement that stretched the Glenbrook South defense.
"We had a lot more energy at the start of the second half,” said States. “We were more patient in our attack with some great passing combinations and a lot of the possession as well."
Abdala, Bonifacy and Malinsky pumped at the heart of the Hawks operation, while Wyatt Kelleher and Galimski, both natural lefties, drove the attack on their side of the park with speed and nice distribution.
"I was kind of floating around in the midfield, while Cristian (Abdala) and Sebastian stayed more central,” offered Malinsky. “Our outside backs were playing great in the second half. Our passing, and aerial game was a big reason for our success after the break.”
"We played so much more crisply in every facet of our game in the second half,” added States. “It was nice to see us playing at a higher level at that point."
Glenbrook South’s Anthony Kifarkis made a brave block on a wicked blast off the right foot of Bonifacy in the 62nd minute. Unfortunately the Titans senior was forced to leave for good after suffering an injury on the play.
Maine South’s attack continued to stay on its collective front foot. The Hawks created a pair of corners and deep throws, but the visitors defended nicely.
Malinsky tricked his way free at the end of a nice-looking build-up to earn the home-side its third corner of the last three minutes. Soon after a deep throw finally paid off.
It led to Kelleher's angled effort from near the endline that bent into the Falk, who was deemed behind his goal line when he collected the 71st-minute shot.
Maine South didn't dig in with the lead. The Hawks closed out their victory when Milkowski elevated high above all others in the box to meet an Abdala corner with a thumping header.
"Despite the three goals we conceded, I really felt that our backline played very well tonight. We battled for most of the 80 minutes as well, but it just was not enough against a very good team from Maine South," said Lara.
Said Malinsky: "We know a lot of their guys from our Chicago Stars club team, which makes playing them so much fun.
"Sam (Middendorf) had a great game for us along the back, so did Seba (Sebastian Bonifacy) and Wyatt (Kelleher). It was a very good win for us.
"I really liked the way we played at every spot on the field tonight, especially in the second half when I felt like we dominated play," added Abdala.
"It was our best game of the year as far as our possession and our combination play," said States. "Our guys in the middle looked comfortable on the ball, and they all played with a lot of confidence.
"The CSL South is tough soccer conference. We have to be ready right from the start in order to compete with teams like Glenbrook North, New Trier, Evanston and Glenbrook South on a nightly basis."
Maine South moved to 7-3-1, 1-0-1 when it picked up a point at no. 5 New Trier (7-1-2, 0-1-1) who earlier in the week lost a tough 2-1 match at home against no. 7 Glenbrook North on Monday.
Glenbrook South hosted new divisional member Deerfield at home Thursday and gained its first points in the table with a 3-1 win. The Titans now stand at 7-3-2, 1-1-0.
Glenbrook South (3-4-3)
G- Michael Falk
D- Marben Rivera
D- T.J. Philips
D- Paul Scherer
M- Matteus Johansson
M- Nathan Halpern
M- Jacob Cramer
M- Anthony Kifarkis
F- Jacob Ciszyk
F- Conor Beach
F- Chris Vazquez
Maine South (4-4-2)
G- Alex Ballinger
D- Wyatt Kelleher
D- Jacob Walendzewicz
D- Sam Middledorf
D- Darragh Cronnolly
M- Charlie Kasicki
M- Cristian Abdala
M- Sebastian Bonifacy
M- Dexter Kelleher
F- Zach Malinsky
F- Nick Milkowski
Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match:
Sebastian Bonifacy, sr., MF, Maine South;
Zach Malinsky, sr., MF, Maine South
Referee: Kevin Parker
Glenbrook South: Carvalho (unassisted), 37'
Maine South: Bonifacy, (unassisted), 39'
Maine South: Keller (unassisted), 71'
Maine South: Milkowski (Abdala), 74'