RIVER GROVE — The activity that brings twins Will and Kyle James together most often is soccer.
That’s been the case ever since they started playing on the same team in middle school, Will James said. The Northridge seniors play soccer year round, and follow it in their free time. They watch the English Premier League together on weekends — Will James roots for Manchester City, Kyle James pulls for Chelsea — when they’re not playing for Northridge or their Elite SC club team.
The James twins, who live in La Grange, have seen their roles expand at similar rates with the Knights. They’ve grown from bit players as sophomores to senior captains this year.
“It’s been disappointing the past couple of years, where we didn’t do as much [in the postseason], I think, as we could have,” Kyle James said. “I didn’t think I could take as much leadership in taking us farther [in the playoffs]. … But this season, I feel like as seniors we have the most control of that.”
The twins proved Kyle James’ point during second-seeded Northridge’s 6-0 victory over third-seeded Christian Liberty in their Class 1A Guerin Regional semifinal on Thursday night. The Knights advanced to play top-seeded North Shore Country Day at 4 p.m. Friday in the regional final.
Kyle James was a catalyst in the Knights (8-5-6) storming out to a 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes. The forward’s touch pass into the box set up senior forward Emilio Galindo’s goal from close range. Then, less than five minutes later, Kyle James drew a penalty kick when he dribbled by a defender and was taken down in the box.
Senior Conner Mongoven converted the ensuing penalty kick for the first of his two goals in the match.
Kyle James and Mongoven are arguably the squad’s two most dangerous offensive players, and they showed that against Christian Liberty. They were constant threats, and the Knights’ offense seems to be at its best now that Northridge coach Desmond Ryan has moved Mongoven to center midfielder and shifted Kyle James from center midfielder to forward.
“Not having a true goal scorer kind of hurt” at the beginning of the season, Ryan said. “Kyle plays forward on his club, so it kind [of] made sense to push him back to forward — put him closer to the net. Conner can go box-to-box and just take over games. … Kyle, he’s deadly in the front third.”
While his brother went through a position change, Will James has started at sweeper all year. Christian Liberty threatened to cut Northridge’s lead to 2-1 during the first half, but it was Will James who thwarted several of those opportunities.
Will James has been a vital defensive cog this season. Even when Northridge led 6-0 and the Knights’ squad was mostly comprised of backups, he never left the field against Christian Liberty.
“Ninety percent of [sweeper] is just being a leader and just talking all game,” he said. “Coach wants me to just yell at guys the whole game. … [The role] is organizational: who should be marking who, where guys should be when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball.”
The James’ high school soccer careers could end any day now. Even though soccer is such a big part of their lives, they both said that the impending end isn’t something they’ve fixated on.
Still, the goal is to keep playing together at Northridge for as long as possible.
“It’s been a lot of fun and I feel like we’ve gotten better,” Will James said of their senior seasons. “I’ve enjoyed every year more and more. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can and get as much out of it as I can.”