SOCCER: Melgar’s late goal pushes Momence to regional final
GRANT PARK — All it takes is one break at the right time.
Momence caught that break and took advantage of it via a free kick and header perfectly placed for a 3-2 victory against Bishop McNamara in a Class 1A Regional semifinal Wednesday.
Despite the victory, Momence coach Alex Habeeb wasn’t exactly too thrilled with the way his team looked.
“I’m not happy with the performance, and neither were the players,” Habeeb said. “We all know we didn’t play as good as we should have. We weren’t intense enough, didn’t win 50-50 balls like we should have and got pushed off the ball too easily. Maybe we were nervous, but we weren’t all there mentally or physically.”
Goals matter, not shots
Through the first half, both teams were pretty even across the board, but the Irish were getting more shots off than the Redskins.
Although the Irish held a 5-2 shot advantage at halftime, it was Momence that connected on a goal off the foot of Jared Espino for a 1-0 halftime lead.
Just minutes into the second half, Momence’s Junior Ramirez took a corner kick and found Raymond Baloiz, who sent a rocket into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Bishop McNamara’s Andrew Kyrouac has been the leader of the team during his soccer tenure in an Irish uniform.
And he did everything in his power to make sure his senior season saw another day.
Off a corner kick, the ball slipped through the pile of players onto Kyrouac’s foot, and he finished the job into the bottom left corner to cut the lead to 2-1 with 31 minutes left.
Aided by some incredible saves from goalie Jesus Jiminez, the Irish upped their intensity and assertiveness until Kyrouac broke away 20 minutes later and received a penalty kick after being tackled in the box.
He struck with his left foot and connected with the back of the net to tie the game at two with eight minutes left in the contest.
“Andrew is one of the technically gifted players in the area,” Bishop McNamara coach Marty Ruberry said. “He played with a lot of guts. He’s so clever with the ball and finds himself in the right positions at the right times. He works incredibly hard on his game, and I thought he was the best player on the field.”
All momentum completely shifted in the Irish’s direction, and it seemed as if they were on the verge of scoring the go-ahead goal.
However, Momence caught a wave and rode it all they way to a free kick with 1:05 left in the game.
Alan Lopez took the kick and shot it perfectly over the Irish defense as Francisco Melgar broke free for the header into the back of the net to secure the victory for the Redskins.
“He realized we needed a goal and mustered up enough courage to break away and put the ball in,” Habeeb said. “We’re beyond thankful he made that choice. We’re happy with the victory, even if it comes in ugly fashion.”
Momence advances to a Class 1A Regional Final on Friday at Grant Park against the Dragons.
The Dragons have unfinished business in their eyes after Momence beat them for the Twin Valley Conference Championship. This time, the championship along with the stakes are much bigger.
Habeeb knows a performance similar to Wednesday’s won’t cut it but said his team will be ready.
“We’ll straighten every single thing out tomorrow in practice,” Habeeb said. “We know [Grant Park] is going to come after us. It’s their home field, and we already got one up on them. No team wants to make that walk back without the title in their hands. They’re gunning for us, and that’s OK; we’re going to be bulletproof come Friday.”