Ian Chacon saves the day for Morton in PepsiCo Showdown title

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The shooter is said to have the clear advantage on penalty kicks unless the goalkeeper is the daunting Ian Chacon. Then all bets are off.

The 6-3 All-State senior goalie made two spectacular diving sliding stops and the top-ranked Mustangs converted all four of their penalty shots for the dramatic 3-2 victory over No. 3 Lyons in the championship game of the PepsiCo Showdown Sunday at DePaul.

Morton (14-1-2) won its first tournament since 2010 in avenging back-to-back title game losses, including a defeat against Lyons in the 2012 final.

All four Morton shooters—Jorge Mercado, Leo Delgado, Mario Romero and Rafael Herrera—delivered as the Mustang won the penalty phase 4-2. Herrera’s shot in the right corner was officially credited as the game-winner.

“I’m very confident with my penalties,” Herrera said. “We practice them a lot, and I always shoot from the same in practice.”

Chacon registered athletic blocks of the Lions’ first two shooters, Daniel Gutierrez and Cole Gilchrist. “Any slight mishap and he’s going to be all over you in the [penalty kicks],” Lyons coach Paul Labbato said.

“Blocking the first one gives the winning team momentum because you now the other side down by one, and the second one just motivates us to keep scoring,” Chacon said. He said he studies the shooter’s knees to indicate where the shot location. “I have another trick I use, but it’s my secret, and I can’t give it out,” he said.

The psychological edge is pronounced. “After Ian blocked those, it gave us more confidence in our penalties,” Herrera said.

The game was sharp and fluid, despite Lyons playing its third game in three days and Morton coming off its first loss of the season against West Chicago on Friday where Chacon and senior stopper Hector Luna were both injured in the first half.

Morton outshot Lyons 17-16 for the game.

Herrera forced the overtime and penalty shootout with a dramatic goal in the 72nd minute, just 18 seconds after Lyons appeared to gain the upper hand after Gutierrez finished a beautiful give-and-go with senior midfielder Harry Hilling for the Lions’ short-lived 2-1 advantage.

After the Lions’ goal, Morton coach Mike Caruso altered the team’s formation and shifted Herrera from his normal defender position to forward. On the kickoff, Morton caught Lyons off-guard in creating the equalizer.

Morton played from behind for much of regulation against the Lions (13-4). In the 13th minute, senior midfielder Harry Hilling created the first Lions’ score by drilling a free kick from 30 yards out that Chacon’s save rebounded off the near post for Patrick Duncan’s putback.

Morton’s near constant pressure and dominance of possession time created the breakthrough in the 62nd minute. The team catalyst in moving the ball to maintain possession, Mercado drilled a free kick from just outside the box for the game’s first tie at 1-apiece.

“It was a typical Morton and Lyons game,” Caruso said.

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