For more than 60 minutes of play, Lane created scoring chances that tantalized without quite achieving their end. Shots scuttled just off the mark. Twice shots were inches off frame or Kelly goalkeeper Victor Montoya made a great lunging save.
Given his opportunity, Owen Finn went his own way.
The Lane junior forward drove the ball down the left edge and blasted in a left-footed shot from 16 yards out that curved inside the far post and catapulted the Indians to a 1-0 victory over No. 19 Kelly in the Public League title game Thursday night at North Park.
Finn worked a potential 2-on-1 combination with teammate Patrick Wojciuk, a secondary option to lay the ball off. Finn elected to work his own option and registered his eighth goal of the year.
“It seemed wide open and I just took it,” Finn said. “I just went with the ball and none of their defenders ever caught up with me, and I just shot it.”
The natural right-hander took deep satisfaction by scoring with his off-foot.
“I’ve scored some other goals over the course of the year, but none of them in a game of this importance,” he said.
Lane (17-5-1) won its sixth straight game and avenged three consecutive losses in the city title game. Kelly (15-5-1) saw its seven-game winning streak snapped.
The game lived up to the hype of a showdown between the city’s two best two teams. Kelly beat Lane 2-1 in overtime in the 2012 final.
“This was one of the best city title games in a long time,” Kelly coach Stan Mieutus said. “Two great teams, high level soccer, and somebody had to lose. To win this game is not easy, and they deserve the credit.”
Lane was sharper and quicker to contested balls and enjoyed greater scoring chances.
“They just seemed a step quicker to the ball,” Kelly junior midfielder Alejandro Cervantes said. “They played great, from their defense to their midfield and forwards.”
The Indians enjoyed a 17-8 edge on shot attempts. Wojciuk appeared to score on a header in the fourth minute, but the score was nullified by an offsides ruling. Wojciuk twice saw shots just graze the post. Teammate Artur Kielar had a left-footed blast that Montoya pushed over the top of the crossbar.
Lane coach Andrew Ricks preaches the importance of meaningful possession. “Tonight I think we did that,” he said. “You had two heavyweight teams, and you knew it was going to be a one goal differential. There were times we went sideways, and we turned the ball over but mostly our attack was forward.”
The only other team to shut out Kelly is top-ranked Morton. Cervantes and forward Ricardo Vega created the best scoring chances for the Trojans. Lane senior goalkeeper Rudy Rojas made a superb diving stop on the Cervantes shot late in the first half and thwarted Vega in the second half.
Kelly mounted significant pressure over the final 10 minutes to try and create the equalizer. The Trojans never quite solved Lane’s defense.
“Nobody likes to lose a game like this, but Lane played great. The better team won,” Cervantes said.