Morton’s Ian Chacon is one of the state’s top keepers. By his own admission he had no chance against the rocket ball launched by Lane junior midfielder Jaime Lopez.
“He buried it,” Chacon said.
Lopez’s first goal of the year in the 48th minute catapulted No. 4 Lane past the No. 3 Mustangs, 1-0, in the championship of the Pepsi Showdown Sunday at Toyota Park.
Lopez delivered on his teammates’ encouragement. “They had been telling me to shoot for a long time,” Lopez said. “It was a good pass from Artur, and I just connected with it and it felt really good.”
The Indians (15-1-2) became the first Public League champion in the 10-year history of the event. They also are the lowest seed, at No. 8, to walk away the champion.
“They deserved it,” Morton coach Mike Caruso said. “They had the better play.”
Lopez’s game-winner had many hands involved. The play originated off a corner kick. Sergio Fuentes noticed the Mustangs out of position, and he initiated a quick set and dropped the ball off to junior midfielder Artur Kielar.
Kielar made the short cross to a perfectly placed Lopez and he drilled the ball just outside the box for the decisive play.
“When I saw the short pass and the ball crossing, I knew we were in trouble,” Chacon said. “I know [Lopez] and I knew he has a good shot.”
Lane coach Andrew Ricks was quick to laud the beautifully synchronized action. The combination of Fuentes’ deception and the execution proved crucial. “Jaime has been playing great. He’s our defensive holding midfielder, and because he’s behind [leading scorer] Jose Fuentes, allowing him to do his magic, he has been that glue between our offense and defense and it was an outstanding finish,” Ricks said.
The game produced a telling contrast between Lane’s offensive and Morton’s defensive prowess. Lane had the better play much of the game, controlling the ball and denying Morton many countering chances.
“They had the better play, and we had trouble connecting any passes,” Caruso said.
Morton (15-2) lost the championship game by an identical score to Lyons last year. The loss ended the Mustangs’ 12-game winning streak. “There were a lot more shots toward me, and we’re not really used to that,” Chacon said.
He made seven saves for the Mustangs.
Morton had two free kicks in the final four minutes that amounted to their best second-half scoring chances. On a ball played by Jovany Garcia, Lane keeper Raudel Rojas lunged and snared the ball. He secured the victory by clearing Garcia’s final free kick in the closing seconds.