EVANSTON — Evanston’s defense was without all-state center back Bret Lowry for the first half of Tuesday’s boys soccer game, but the Wildkits still kept a Maine South squad with a lot of offensive talent in check.
The Wildkits’ back line — it was primarily senior center backs Ben Osterlund and Ben Rogan, senior right back Mark Roth, and junior left back Henry Young during the first half — played well throughout Evanston’s 2-0 win. Junior goalie Adam Masters only had to make one save in the opening 40 minutes, and Maine South’s one genuine scoring opportunity during the first half was squandered when senior Dan Tuzzolino got behind the Wildkits’ defense and sent his shot just high and wide of the frame.
Evanston led 1-0 after 40 minutes thanks to a goal by senior midfielder Max Goldsmith. The Wildkits (7-1-1, 2-0-0 CSL South) put the game out of reach when senior forward Oli Jacques scored with 12:03 remaining in the game.
Lowry missed a practice due to a college visit and, per team rules, sat out the first half.
Evanston coach Franz Calixte shifted Osterlund, who has played left back for most of the season, to center back to replace Lowry. It put Osterlund in a position he’s played sparingly during his career.
“It was frightening, actually. I’m not going to lie to you,” Osterlund said. “I was glad I had [Ben] Rogan back there because he was good talking to me, but it’s totally different as far as attacking and making sure you’re seeing your guy.”
Lowry, a senior, returned for the second half and was paired at center back with senior John Muyres.
Lowry’s presence is a boost to his fellow defenders.
“It’s a security blanket, definitely,” Osterlund said of playing with Lowry. “It’s just kind of a peace of mind that you can take risks and you can sometimes over commit. You can make these little mistakes, and you know he’s going to have your back.”
The Wildkits’ defense has been solid ever since Evanston lost 2-1 to Libertyville on Aug. 27. The defense’s already-strong chemistry — the defenders have a handshake they do together before games — has continued to blossom, Roth said, and the only time Evanston has been scored on since losing to Libertyville was an 8-1 win over Mather on Sept. 2.
“I think we’re looking really good right now,” Roth said.
A big reason for the team’s defensive success is Evanston’s possession-oriented style. Each of the defenders who played significant minutes against the Hawks proved to be very capable with the ball at his feet and made quick, accurate passes.
Playing that style is what Calixte prefers, in part because it’s a more entertaining, pure brand of soccer. It allows Evanston to transition quickly from defense to offense, with the center backs initiating counter attacks — like Lowry did soon after entering the game — and the outside backs providing quality attacking options down the flanks.
More than that, holding the majority of possession tends to wear the opposing team down because it has to chase the ball. It also takes stress off of the back line.
“If we have the ball, they don’t have it,” Roth said.