SOCCER: Manteno earns hard fought win over Bishop McNamara
MANTENO — The smallest miscue or fortunate bounce can make all the difference in soccer.
Luckily for Manteno, that bounce went in its direction, and it was able to capitalize for a 1-0 victory over Bishop McNamara on Thursday in the Rivals Cup.
“We didn’t play too bad, but it took too long with the games only being 60 minutes to get into it,” Manteno coach Justin Emerson said. “It’s a big rivalry game, and we still organized, which I liked to see. We weren’t quite ourselves in front of the goal attacking wise and we still have a lot of room for improvement.”
In the past number of years Manteno has owned the rivalry, but Emerson knew the Panthers had their work cut out for them after watching the Irish play earlier in the Rivals Cup tournament.
“They’re much-improved compared to the past few years,” Emerson said. “From what we saw, we knew that if we could limit the connection between (Andrew Kyrouac) and (Ben Kuntz), we would win the game. That was the only main goal, and I though we did it pretty well.”
Early on though, it wasn’t that connection the Panthers had to worry about. The Irish maintained ball possession, limiting its mistakes and putting the Panthers on their heels early. After firing out a couple shots and missing, it looked as if the Irish were on the verge of breaking through.
“We gave Manteno a really good game, and I don’t think they were prepared for it,” Bishop McNamara coach Marty Ruberry said. “For the first 15-20, I thought we were the better team. We had some guys step up while Manteno focused on Ben and Andrew and played really well.”
However, that all changed when the Irish were called for a penalty and Manteno was awarded a free kick inside the box. After the kick and a ricochet, the ball landed in front of A.J. Gilliam who connected with the back of the net for the lone goal of the game with 9:25 left in the first half.
It’s very clear that this isn’t the same Bishop McNamara team as years past.
There’s more aggression, better ball control and more importantly, an overall belief that it can win the majority of its games.
Although Thursday wasn’t its night, the Irish still consider themselves victors.
“The guys never stopped battling from the opening kick to the final whistle,” Ruberry said. “They put so much effort into the game that guys were collapsing afterwards because they gave it their all. We didn’t have the type of fight we showed tonight back in our first game and I was impressed.”
Although the loss knocks them out of a possibly shot at the Rivals Cup championship, there’s still a lot to play for including an All-City championship before playoffs arrive.
“We had a couple chances and didn’t finish,” Ruberry said. “But we still have a lot of momentum. We only had 11 players are the start of the season and we’re now up to 17. We’re sitting at 8-5-1 and surprising a lot of teams. We’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Manteno returns to action on Saturday at home in the Rivals Cup for a semifinal against Chicago Christian. Bishop McNamara heads to Peotone Junior High for Rivals Cup action against Illiana Christian.