Monday marked the first day of the Illinois High School Association's boys soccer season. It also marked a match that won’t soon be forgotten by Andrew and Michael Chang, the dynamic brother duo in midfield.
The Chang-gang created opportunity after opportunity for the Giants to score, but the team could not found the back of Fremd High School's goal in a 1-0 defeat at Wolters Field on Monday.
“It seemed like every chance we had, the ball ended up slicing right,” said Highland Park coach Blake Novotny. “We just didn’t quite put it all together and couldn’t find the net.
"We had great possession and great ball movement. I wish they [the Changs] could have a few of their scoring chances back,” he added.
That said, it was the visiting Vikings who found the net and it came in chaotic style near the end of the first half.
With both teams moving the ball around swiftly and creating opportunities deep in each other’s defensive zones, it was a Fremd player who unlocked the Giants defense's courtesy of a gorgeous pass.
Senior Brian Hindle, one of the top midfielders in the area, placed a perfect pass down the right side to teammate Yusuke Kanada. The ball was incisive and accurate and as Kanada touched it, Giants goalkeeper Jesus Nava rushed out to the ball. Nava collided with teammate Noah Bloch who was covering Kanada.
Kanada skipped past the pair of Highland Park players, who were now wincing in agony after the hard collision and shot at what looked like an open goal. But Highland Park’s Tristan Penick made a great diving save. However, the rebound fell calmly to Fremd’s Michael Eschbach and he powered home the ball into the goal after Penick’s diving save left him on the ground.
It may have been horrifying to watch, but Nava and Bloch would be OK.
But the collision did leave a mark, as Highland Park seemed out of balance throughout the second half. The team was unable to found the back of the Fremd's net even with plenty of scoring opportunities.
In the 50th minute, Andrew Chang played in teammate Danny Santoyo who had a drive from the top of the box--and it sailed over the goal.
Three minutes later, Andrew Chang was involved in a counterattack with teammate Nikita Katsman, but that ended with the shot opening wide right.
Two minutes later, Andrew Chang was back at it, sending a shot wide from 15 yards as his younger brother, Michael, looked on.
Three minutes after that, it was Andrew Chang on the receiving end of a Santoyo pass. The shot rocked wide of the Vikings' goal.
All those opportunities and nothing to show for it, and time was running out. Fremd started to slow the pace down but with 3 minutes to go, it looked for certain the older Chang had finally put the ball in the goal.
Oscar Pozo’s cross from the left came flying right at Chang and his glancing header looked all but certain to tie the game. Instead it crept inches wide right of goalkeeper Steven Soltykiewicz’s net.
The Giants wouldn’t muster another scoring opportunity and the game finished in favor of the visitors.
Even with the close defeat, Novotny was encouraged with what he saw in the season opener.
“We got some new guys playing varsity for the first time so maybe it’s a bit different. Soccer’s a funny game. I felt we had more possession and more chances. Maybe we’re just storing them up for later on in the year.”