NORTHLAKE — Leyden head coach Mark Valintis was confident in his team’s ability to shut down opposing offenses.
The big question was, could the Eagles score?
Thursday night against Lyons, the resounding answer was yes. Leyden notched its biggest win of the season by knocking off the Sun-Times’ No. 2-ranked Lions 3-1.
“It’s been hit or miss all year,” Valintis said. “We’ve created tons of chances and sometimes we finish them and sometimes we don’t. But when we play the right way and do the right things, we get goals.”
Leyden (9-5-3) struck first on a remarkable goal by Christian Sosnowski with 27:08 left in the first half. He blasted three consecutive shots in front of the net, grabbing the rebound each time. On the third try he found the the lower left side.
Lyons (15-5) responded with a goal 10 minutes later but the Eagles regained the advantage with 2:32 to play in the first half after Erik Rodriguez’s pressure in the box led to an own goal by the Lions.
That’s how the score went to halftime and Valintis made sure to keep his team focused.
“We talked about letting opportunities slip through our fingers several times,” Valintis said. “I told the guys, ‘This is what I want you to feel. The pressure Lyons is going to put you under is going to increase, the physicality will increase, the pace will increase.’ I told them not to be scared and embrace it.”
The Eagles did just that. They weathered a determined Lyons offense for the entire second half until a scoring opportunity presented itself.
Senior forward Miguel Mireles headed a pass from Elvis Castaneda to senior forward Angel Lopez, who streaked down the right side, waited for the Lyons goalie to commit and blasted a shot to clinch the win with 2:41 left.
Lopez and his teammates weren’t surprised that they pulled off the upset.
“We believed in ourselves that we could win this game,” Lopez said. “We got numbers on top because our midfield helped attack on offense. Sosnowski was excellent [Thursday] and gave a lot of through balls.”
“We don’t really have a true striker so it’s just about our work ethic,” Sosnowski said. “We really stepped up the intensity and that’s how we should play every game. We don’t always finish our chances but [Thursday] was the day we did.”
Heading into the postseason, Leyden now feels like there is no team in the state it can’t beat.
“This is a huge confidence boost going into the playoffs,” Sosnowski said. “We can definitely beat anyone because Lyons is one of the best teams in the state. We just need everyone to be part of the team and contribute.”
The Eagles are the No. 5 seed in the Glenbrook South Regional and open the playoffs against No. 12 Schurz on Oct. 21.