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Game story: Fremd tops Prospect with epic goal, 4-star goalkeeping

By Bill McLean, 09/15/23, 4:00PM CDT


Frosh F Hernandez, senior GK Ash excel in 2-0 MSL win

PALATINE — Bend it (and then dip it) like Hernandez.

That’s not the working title of a spinoff to a certain movie title featuring the surname of a former English footballer who’s married to a Spice Girl.

It describes what Fremd freshman forward Jose Hernandez did off the bench to ignite the Vikings’ 2-0 defeat of visiting Prospect on Thursday night.

“I don’t remember it,” a smiling, thrilled Hernandez said of his first prep goal on the undercard of Thursday night’s Maine South-Fremd football game.

Others did, because the tally is likely to achieve highlight-reel status. Hernandez, who entered the Mid Suburban League match at the 20-minute mark, controlled a 10-yard feed from reserve junior forward Cole Murray in the 31st minute. Hernandez then struck a lefty, 35-yard shot toward the far post of the Prospect net, which was patrolled by Prospect junior goalkeeper Griffin Whalen (four saves).

The ball curved to the right before sinking suddenly and glancing off the upper-left portion of the crossbar. It then dropped due south  and spun on the turf and past Whalen.

“Incredible strike,” Prospect coach Michael Andrews said. “Not much we could have done about that, except maybe put a little more pressure on the shooter than we did.”

“That was an amazing goal, especially the way it dipped,” Fremd senior goalkeeper Bennett Ash said. 

Hernandez and Ash (nine saves) shared the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor for their significant roles in a hard-fought battle that improved the Vikings’ overall record to 2-3-3
and their Mid-Suburban League record to 2-1-2.

Ash’s clean sheet as his fourth of the season, which hits the halfway point Saturday.
Several of his nine saves (six in the first half) were of the airborne, lunging variety.

“He talks. He dives,” Hernandez said of two of Ash’s on-pitch strengths.

Prospect (2-7-0, 1-3-0) wasn’t at full strength in the 5 p.m. clash. Starters Michael Casaletto, a junior forward, and Adam Toporkiewicz, a senior forward, sat out with injuries.

But the visitors played with plenty of grit and resolve, particularly in the first 40 minutes, to make up for their shorthandedness. Knights junior midfielder Hayden Hoelting and senior midfielder Dimitriy Hutnyk were handfuls defensively and in transition.

“Our team did a good job creating chances from the middle,” Hoelting said. “We just weren’t able to finish up-top.”

Hutnyk, a tri-captain with senior back Robert Morys and Toporkiewicz, was heartened by the Knights’ collective energy and next-man-up mindset.

“We showed how much depth we have,” he said. “We showed how good our bench players are.”

Fremd led 1-0 at intermission. But Prospect could have easily been up 4-1 had it capitalized on promising opportunities, according to Fremd coach Steve Keller.

“We gave Prospect way too many chances,” Keller, who is in his 26th boys season at Fremd, said. “Bennett in goal was a big reason we weren’t down at the half. We have to be better organized defensively.

“As the game went on,” he continued, “we played better and our keeper didn’t have to make as many great saves as he did in the first half. It’s nice to get the win.”

Keller added that Fremd’s second goal doubled as “a nice cushion.” Vikings junior midfielder Kyle Grasse set that one up with a prodigious free kick in the 65th minute. The lefty service
traveled some 45 yards before senior forward Erik Mihai fielded it and poked it past Whalen from about five yards. 

It was Grasse’s first assist of the fall.

It would have been his second of the game had Fremd not been called offside ahead of a header from sophomore forward Adam Kowalski in the 12th minute.

Fremd junior back Joey Kohl boomed several fine sends in each half, several of which found junior forward Nate Schmeling, who, unofficially, was the fastest athlete on the pitch. Grasse,
junior midfielder Gaku Yuguchi and Mihai nearly connected for a goal in the 43rd minute.

Prospect sophomore defender Rique Huezo came up with the defensive play of the night from a field player, alertly clearing a ball from a spot no more than two yards in front of the goal in
minute 50.

Back to the first half. Andrews’ boys owned the run a play for most of it.

“We had a lot of good building there in the first half,” Andrews, in his eighth season as the Knights’ varsity manager (and 22nd overall with the program), said of sequences that put Fremd’s Vikings on their back feet. “If we were at full force, who knows? We had some issues with picking up some marks, but I liked our effort overall.”

Keller, who coaches passionately because he cares deeply about player development, was not content with his club’s 1-0 lead at the half.

“I saw improvement in the second half,” Keller said. “Learning … our guys are learning. My assistants and I are repeating ourselves a lot during games, reminding our guys what they
need to do in situations. I’d like to cut down on that.

“All of our coaches’ voices are hoarse.”

Both teams are scheduled to compete on Saturday. Fremd visits Naperville North, ranked no. 3 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, at noon. Prospect travels to Barrington (5-4-1) for a Mid-Suburban League test at 2 p.m. The match will be dedicated to cancer patients, survivors and victims as part of Barrington’s “Red Card Cancer” appeal.


Keller stuck around Fremd’s home stadium after his club’s win to take in the football game. His son, Taso, is a JV junior defensive lineman but suits up for varsity games. Maine South won 24-7. … Both coaches took time before Thursday’s kickoff to size up their respective clubs. “The camaraderie is strong and their attitude is fantastic,” Andrews said. “They’re flexible, open to ideas and willing to try different positions.” Keller noted, “We’re inexperienced, a work in progress. They’re playing nervous soccer. We need to be more competitive, more aggressive, more disciplined.” … Through Sept. 14, Fremd was fifth in the MSL with eight points, behind Schaumburg (12 pts, six games), Palatine (10 pts., four), and Barrington and Buffalo
Grove (9 pts, five). Prospect sits in 11th (three pts).

Starting lineups

GK Griffin Whalen
D Matthew Fouch
D Sebastian Parks
D Chris English
D Rique Huezo
D Robert Morys
MF Hayden Hoelting
MF Dimitriy Hutnyk
MF Carter Cremascoli
F Marco Siviero
F Rajko Perduh

GK Bennett Ash
D Stefan Smolak
D Cameron Williams
D Joey Kohl
D Kristian Toshev
MF Rei Kanda
MF Luke McDermott
MF Kyle Grasse
F Adam Kowalski
F Erik Mihai
F Nate Schmeling

Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Bennett Ash, sr., GK, Fremd; 
Jose Hernandez, fr., F, Fremd

Scoring summary

First half
Fremd — Hernandez (Cole Murray), 31’

Second half
Fremd — Mihai (Grasse), 65’