a sectional-seeding shaper?
By Steve Nemeth
As an Upstate Eight cross-over match, Thursday’s South Elgin at Streamwood meeting at 4:30 p.m. won’t affect either division race.
And IHSA Class 3A assignments generally place the two programs in different sectionals.
However, this is definitely a contest worth watching.
The host Sabres’ line-up includes five players who were freshmen or sophomores on the 2014 crew which took fourth in the state and have produced Streamwood’s in-and-out status in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 ever since. The current unit (4-2-1, UECR 1-0-0) currently ranks in the honorable mention group.
South Elgin (6-1-0, UECV 1-0-0) has not only raised eyebrows recently -- the Lake Park Hillner Classic champions vaulted directly into the no. 25 position in this week’s ranking.
The outcome of this match could serve as a hot topic for either team during their respective seeding meetings when positive results are debated.
“This is the time of the year when you build your resume,” Streamwood coach Matt Polovin noted. "Plus with both of us being U-46 schools, it may not be a big rivalry, but there’s an opportunity to hold your chin a little higher
This battle will pit a hot offense versus a stonewall defense.
The one blemish on South Elgin’s record is a 3-1 setback to Lake Park, from which the Storm recovered with a current five-match win streak. Take away the season-opening 2-1 victory at Geneva, and South Elgin has outscored its foes 25-10 during its win streak.
Why is South already just one win shy of matching last year’s triumphs (7-7-1)?
Aside from the gentleman himself, most would point to first-year Storm coach Simon Brinklow. Despite the accent from his native England, Brinklow isn’t really a stranger to “The City in the Suburbs.” He coached the Elgin Community College women for five years, and the men for one in addition with serving as Director of Coaching for the Bartlett Travel Soccer Club. Brinklow, who played semi-pro futbol across the pond for Lincoln City, downplays his role.
“There really was talent here, they simply needed to get organized better,” Brinklow said. “I’d say we have strength in the key players who form the spine of the team.”
Two of his club players – juniors Alex Kirby and Sergio Briones – anchor the defense in front of junior goalie Brian Dykstra, who owns a pair of shutouts. Brinklow then cites the midfield leadership of senior Jimmy Kelleher plus the one-two punch of senior forwards Derek Baker (team-best 10 goals) and Javier Lujan (8 goals).
Kelleher is tops in assists with nine while Eduardo “Lalo” Carrillo has four set-ups to go with a pair of goals.
South boasted three 2015 All-UEC Valley honorees. Forward Isaac Perez graduated, but Lujan and Baker are back producing. The latter was an IHSSCA All-Section 3 pick.
“Doing more things outside of soccer helped us bond together better and that connection translates to the field,” Kelleher said. “In addition to the trust we have for each other, our speed enables us to get off to fast starts.”
“We have to be one of the fastest teams around,” Baker stated. “We create a lot of chances, I know I’ve gotten some great through-balls. Our results prove no one should underestimate us, but they have to find a way to contain us. I’m not afraid of being targeted, because I’m confident that’ll create chances for my teammates.”
Lujan is convinced the experience and chemistry throughout the line-up has developed genuine teamwork.
“A lot of people talk about working as a team, but we really don’t give up one another, and we’re ready for any challenge,” Lujan said.
Ironically the first and most recent foes for the two sides offer comparisons. Whereas South Elgin opened with a 2-1 win at Geneva, Streamwood is fresh off a 3-0 home shutout of those Vikings. The Storm just posted a 5-1 home win over Glenbard East, the same team the Sabres began this season beating on the road by that exact tally.
Streamwood’s setbacks came from rugged Barrington Classic tournament action in a 3-0 defeat courtesy of ninth-ranked hosts and a narrow 2-1 setback versus Boylan, which is ranked fourth in the Illinois 10 poll.
The Sabres also had a trio of All-UEC River Division selections in 2015, but Donnie Sosa, Edwin Rueda and Aaron Villegas all graduated.
Junior Rafa Gill is determined to continue elevating Streamwood’s profile either in the middle or assisting veteran senior defenders Nick Gaviria and Ivan Gonzalez, who has brother Carlos also working alongside.
Then there’s the Chavez brothers: Alex (four goals) and Oscar (three goals) provide an offensive threat along with Aldo Lazaro.
However, the first nominee for team MVP would actually be junior keeper Daniel Dominguez, who has three shutouts.
“Daniel’s been on fire. He’s had highlight-reel if not world-class style saves,” Polovin said. “He’s definitely kept us in some games when our offense has struggled a little. He’s found his voice and is directing things ahead of him.”
As a veteran, Gil acknowledges the Sabres’ strength on defense (a seven-goal yield for seven games versus 12 scores).
“We’ve limited opponents which is good, but I also think people may not realize how dangerous we are on offense," he said. "We’ve been playing together a long time and our chemistry also comes from work on and off the field.”
“We know we must play for each other at all times to be successful,” Gonzalez added. “Focusing on the little things is a key, be it moving together, communicating, and never backing down.”
Now in his 17th year at Streamwood, Polovin admits he may be the only person who remembers any past history with South. The Sabres' UEC cross-over calendar didn’t include South Elgin in 2015. The Sabres were 3-0 winners over the Storm during their 2014 state trophy campaign. The year before that, Streamwood was a 4-2 victor in a season opener, but fell 2-1 as higher seed to South Elgin in a 2013 regional-opener.