Niles West still waiting for the offense to click

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LA GRANGE — The Niles West boys soccer schedule is loaded with high-quality opponents and includes a pair of difficult tournaments, including the PepsiCo Showdown, which is currently under way.

The ultimate goal of playing such a schedule, Niles West coach Scott Ackman said, is to be able to beat elite competition by the end of the season.

For that to happen, however, the Wolves know they will have to score more often.

“We’re still trying to work on it,” said Ackman, whose team fell to 2-6 on Saturday. “The offense just isn’t clicking yet.”

Niles West scored its eighth goal of the season in a 7-1 loss to Streamwood on Saturday. Wolves junior forward Denis Soldo tied the game 1-1 in the first half. Soldo’s goal was one of the few bright spots for the Wolves, who were without their starting goalkeeper due to a one-game red card suspension and two of their starting defenders because they were late for the bus that morning.

Soldo’s goal was an example of what makes him a promising prospect. He got behind the Sabres’ defense with a nice run up the middle of the field, then dribbled the ball toward goal. While three Streamwood defenders closed in, Soldo kept possession and rifled a shot into the net from 15 yards away for his second goal of the season.

“With the ball and without the ball, he moves well,” said senior midfielder Mario Ljubic. “If I were to describe what I like about him, I would say his finishing. He’s not the quickest of kids, or the fastest of kids, but definitely his finishing.”

Soldo is the most capable goal scorer on the team. He’s big and physical and can beat goalkeepers with well-placed shots. He has a strong club background with Chicago Magic, but it’s taken him time to adjust to bigger, stronger varsity defenders.

“The defenders, I’m not used to them,” said Soldo, who’s in his first year on varsity. “I’m used to always being the biggest one because I’m always playing at my age. Varsity is all these people who are older, and I’m playing against people who are a year — or two years — older than me.”

Ackman and Soldo both said the next step for him is to become more comfortable making diagonal runs. Soldo said he usually just makes straight-ahead runs with Chicago Magic because of his physical advantages and the 4-3-3 formation his club team plays, but Niles West uses two forwards and running straight into the teeth of a varsity defense makes him easier to defend.

Although Soldo is still going through an acclimation process, Ackman and Ljubic are both hopeful that the offense can score more in the coming games by playing more cohesively and learning from its experiences against tough competition to start the year.

“The technical skills, the work ethic is definitely there,” Ljubic said. “We want it. The passion is definitely there. … I think the more games that we play, the more time we put in, they’re going to come — the goals are going to come, the wins are going to come.”

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