Properly executed, the long free kick is one of the beautiful plays in soccer. The longer the distance the greater the advantage to the kicker, providing an opportunity to play variations with trajectory or curvature of the ball.
For two thirds of his team’s game with Washington, Young standout midfielder Jaime Alonso saw every possible permutation. A couple of set pieces resulted in headers just wide off the mark, or the Patriots’ keeper made a sharp recovery to deny the goal.
“Throughout the game we had plenty of opportunities and I knew our chances were going to come out,” Alonso said. “I knew I couldn’t get frustrated.
“I couldn’t get desperate.”
The art of the free kick is a mixture of skill and composure. Alonso delivered just right.
The 6-2 senior lined a low and long ball from just inside midfield that broke perfectly and froze the Washington keeper inside the backpost in the 62nd minute as the host Dolphins clipped the Patriots 1-0 in Premier play Monday.
The winning sequence proved especially gratifying for Alonso, whose hard liner from about 14 yards out in the 42nd minute hit the underside of the crossbar andricocheted into the field of play, constituting the best scoring chance of the game.
Alonso also had a header in the first half that was just wide of the frame. His persistence played off. So did the cool and collected manner of the team, still upset over its 1-0 loss to St. Charles North in a first-round PepsiCo Showdown game Saturday. Young coach Ian McCarthy was serving a one-game suspension after he was issued a red card for protesting the North Stars’ winning goal in that game.
“We were just trying to come out and prove ourselves with the [defending] 2A state champions, because we played right with St. Charles North and there was a [disputed] goal, but that’s how soccer is,” Alonso said.
Young (3-4, 1-1) enjoyed superior possession time and created more consistent scoring chances. On the game-winner, Alonso was stationed on the left edge. As his kick approached, junior Young midfielder Patryk Kopytko made a move toward the ball as though he were trying to get a finishing touch that effectively threw off the defensive timing of the Washington goalie.
“The strategy for us on long free kicks is to try and force the goalie to make a play,” Alonso said. “Whether it’s a cross that makes him move, it doesn’t have to be pretty as long as [the kick] goes in.”
Washington (1-3-1, 0-2) suffered its third consecutive loss. The defending Class 2A state champion is struggling with chemistry and matching the intensity of last year’s side, said senior forward Luis F. Ortega, the leading returning scorer: “We have to want it as much as we did the last couple of years.”
The Patriots managed some impressive set pieces as well. Senior Miguel Angel also hit the top of the crossbar on a free kick in the first half. Young senior goalie Jesus Velasco recorded five saves to thwart the Patriots.
“It’s not going to be easy being state champions,” Ortega said. “Every team is going hard after you. It’s all about playing with heart. We’re just playing to play, instead of playing to win and that’s how we play on the East Side of Chicago.
“We got mad at the loss, and I think we’re starting to want it more. This was just our [fifth] game, and I hope with the next couple of games we’re going to come out stronger,” Ortega said.