If there’s a drawback to scoring really early, it’s the necessity for a lot of defense, especially if that one goal decides the outcome.
Streamwood’s Donnie Sosa headed home the game winner just 57 seconds into Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Huntley in the second semifinal of the DeKalb 3A Sectional.
After that it was a lot of heads-up play by the Sabres defenders and goalie Sergio Blanco to extend their scoreless streak to 320 minutes. Streamwood (15-5-2) advances to Saturday’s noon championship against Rockford Boylan, a 1-0 winner over Crystal Lake South in the early semifinal.
“Nothing quite like 79 minutes of must-have shutout soccer,” Streamwood coach Matt Polovin said. “This part of the season, a win is a win. Now for the first time in our history, we’ll play for a sectional championship.”
Huntley’s effort was certainly heroic. Considering the Red Raiders (9-13-5) had two victories 14 games into the season, few would have envisioned a regional trophy.
“When I look at the way we started, technically not as sharp in terms of fitness, tactically having to learn to attack and defend, I can’t be prouder of this group,” Huntley coach Kris Grabner said. “It’s really been the last 10 games they’ve understood our system. It’s why we came in with a four-game win streak.”
Streamwood’s Rafael Gil notched his third assist, setting up Sosa for a razor-sharp 11-yard header. It’s the eighth goal of the year for the junior forward and third game-winner.
“Rafael had a perfect ball toward the PK spot and once I got away from my defender I just had to aim and connect,” Sosa said. “Getting such an early goal gave us a good confidence boost.”
Huntley’s Allan Josue Barrientos reached a breakaway ball at virtually the same time as Blanco, but the Sabres goalie scrambled to his feet in time to cover up the loose ball. Technically, that was his only true save as the Red Raiders were either wide or high with their other five attempts. That’s not to say Streamwood’s defenders weren’t kept busy.
With 10:35 left, a restart led to a Huntley blast that Sabres senior Mike Delaney went horizontal for a body block. Minutes later, Delaney was heading a cross from the middle.
“You have to be willing to sacrifice your body to win,” Delaney said. “For everyone who thought this would be a rebuilding year for us, it feels great to prove those doubters wrong.”
“Delaney and (Christian) Balbino are rocks out there,” Polovin said. “Actually every defender deserves credit, but Mike is so unbelievably calm.”
The current four-game win streak via shutouts are part of the 11 shutouts for the season for Blanco and the Sabres defense.