Defense continues to be Streamwood’s strong suit as the Sabres kept their opposition off the scoreboard for a fifth consecutive game with Monday’s 3-0 blanking of Larkin.
“I thought we possessed the ball for close to 90 percent of the match and the type of defensive effort we’re getting is exactly what we want,” Streamwood coach Matt Polovin said. “All the guys in the back line deserve a lot of credit, but (goalkeeper) Sergio (Blanco) made some spectacular saves.”
The junior has chalked up 11 shutouts to help Streamwood improve to 12-2-3, including 3-1-1 in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division. Making the most recent run more impressive is the fact it includes back-to-back shutouts of St. Charles East.
The Sabres followed up a 1-1 draw against Plainfield Central to start the St. Charles East Invitational with a 3-1 victory over rival Elgin, then edged Glenbard North 1-0 and fought to a 0-0 deadlock against the Saints.
East’s 3-0-1 record in the tourney, in contrast to Streamwood’s 2-0-2 showing, meant the Saints kept the tourney trophy.
But the Sabres kept the high-octane Saints’ offense from scoring in last Thursday’s league meeting and followed with a 6-0 thumping of Westminster Christian.
“Shutouts are always nice — every goalie wants to see a zero on the scoreboard for their opponent,” Blanco said. “My teammates are playing well and I’m just trying to stay calm, be ready at all times so I’m not caught flat-footed. I think I’m also seeing the ball better with each match.”
Blanco’s eyesight was spot on 5:39 before halftime when he dove to his left for a one-hand tip save on a blast by Larkin’s Moises Raya.
Despite seeing his team dip to 8-6-3 and 2-2-1, Larkin coach Ken Hall was not disappointed.
“I’m happy with our effort and while I wish we had some more chances, their keeper made at least three excellent saves,” Hall noted.
That particular save kept the Royals from gaining an equalizer, instead falling behind 2-0 at halftime.
There was 15:35 left in the opening half when Donnie Sosa fed Jsaminko Dizdarevic for his fourth goal of the season.
“Once I got the ball, I cut it back inside and saw the keeper going to his right so I went to the oppositie side. First goals always get momentum in your favor and being a conference game, that was important,” Dizdarevic said. “Plus our defense is playing so well, every goal puts us in a better position to win.”
After Blanco’s save, the Sabres gained a 2-0 lead with 2:36 left in the half when Christian Vences rocketed a 25-yard free kick inside the right post.
“I saw their wall wasn’t quite in place so I took the shot low and hard,” Vences said of his fifth goal.
The senior then picked up an assist 9:46 into the second half with a through-ball that led to a one-on-one for Bran Malpartida. The only thing missing for the Sabres was a goal by standout Nestor Ascencio, who nailed the crossbar in the opening two minutes and drew iron again in the second half.
“Nesto always slices and dices to get the ball to open teammates or to get himself a shot,” Polovin pointed out. “But the thing is he’ll take a win over goals any time.”
A healthy and complete lineup is something Larkin’s coach would welcome with playoffs approaching.
“We still have some guys banged up, but that meant we had other guys get chances for more playing time,” Hall said. “Despite the score (goalie) Javy (Delgaldo) made some nice saves to keep us in it; one was outstanding.”