ROMEOVILLE – Joliet Central boys soccer coach Erick Estrada still can remember the good times when the Steelmen were able to compete with some of the best local teams, which at times meant some of the best in the state.
While the program has a ways to go to reach that level again, Estrada hopes that a young group of players that see regular playing time can continue their early success this season and take that momentum into next year.
The Steelmen quickly fell behind in Thursday’s Southwest Prairie Conference road match against a Romeoville team with plenty of seniors, but as play progressed, they utilized their possessions to create several good scoring opportunities.
They scored two goals in short order in the first half and then added a third in the second half that helped them hold off a late challenge by the Spartans in a 3-2 victory, improving them to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in SPC play.
“This game was pretty intense and was well-fought, too,” Estrada said. “Credit to Romeoville, since they’re very fast and have a lot of good players that can manage the game pretty good, and those are the types of teams that we like to play. There were lapses in the game where we were touching the ball a little bit more to try to create the spaces, but I really think that our bread and butter is the whole possession with a purpose.
“We have a pretty young group, and mostly underclassmen are starting since we only have two seniors that start. This is a promising group for next year, too. I’m not saying that we’re not going to do anything this year, but we want to cement the whole philosophy by playing the ball and passing it.”
Coach Nick Cirrincione’s Spartans struck shortly after play began on a goal from Edrick Padilla. They kept up the pressure with a liner from Cesar Ruezga and a threatening drive by Tyler Budz, which both were thwarted.
Not long after Central’s Jaime Hernandez was denied on a liner, he found the net in the 28th minute to even the score at 1. Then Alfonso Contreras put in a short shot in the 33rd minute to put the Steelmen up for good.
Early in the second half, Romeoville got solid attempts from Ruezga and Corey Boyette, while the Steelmen countered with a flick by Yonny Silva. Central kept up the pressure as Vicente Zavala and Silva both were denied twice before Zavala connected in the 67th minute to give his team a two-goal cushion.
But the Spartans didn’t concede, as Padilla was denied on a kick save before Alberto Macias found Jesse Agyekum in the 74th minute to make it a one-goal match. Macias sent in a dangerous free kick, and Diego Hernandez had his shot stopped during the final minutes.