While the merits of a team’s “extended” halftime break are open to debate, the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys soccer team certainly used the tactic to good effect during a 3-2 loss to Von Steuben last week.
It wasn’t gamesmanship, mind you, or even RBHS head coach Danny Makaric offering a fire and brimstone pep talk in the locker room. The Bulldogs simply took a few extra minutes than allotted to shore up their game plan with a few tactical adjustments for the second half.
With public address announcer Lou Kucera on the brink of calling the Bulldogs back to the field, the team finally reappeared and never looked back in a decidedly cleaner second-half performance.
“[RBHS head coach] Danny [Makaric] really let us know at halftime we need to press their guys, because Von Steuben is a quality team,” RBHS midfielder Santiago Beltran said. “In the second half, we were more aggressive, gave it our all and made it a pretty competitive game.”
After Von Steuben scored three times in the first half, the Bulldogs acquitted themselves much better after the break, highlighted by goals from Quentin Dreilich and Beltran. Employing a more aggressive approach all over the field, RBHS drew a penalty kick at 19:51 of the second half. Dreilich beat the Panthers’ goalie to make the score 3-1. With 10:15 left in regulation, Dreilich sent a corner kick to Beltran, who put it in the net and pull RBHS to within a goal at 3-2.
“To be honest, we came out really slow and the 3-0 score speaks for itself,” Dreilich said. “We changed our formation in the second half and just played with more heart and will to win. Once I hit the penalty kick in, we started to gather momentum. When Santi [Beltran] scored, all of a sudden it was a game.”
Miguel Sanchez netted a game-high two goals for Von Steuben, which improved to 4-0-1, to offset the Bulldogs’ inspired rally.
“We’re off to a good start, but winning this game should help us bring up our level for conference,” Sanchez said. “I love our team and we did what we had to do. In Chicago, not every high school has a soccer team, so it was pretty cool coming here [to RBHS] and playing in a nice stadium under the lights.”
As for the Bulldogs, an 0-5-3 record to open the season obviously is far from ideal but the team led by Makaric’s long term view tends to treat the season as a marathon rather than a sprint. Two straight Metro Suburban Conference titles with designs on a third allow the Bulldogs the benefit of the doubt.
“The way Danny schedules our games we play bigger schools and excellent teams before conference,” Beltran. “We take some lumps, but going up against that level of competition really helps us in the long run.”
Forward Joe Aieta, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring with five goals, offers a simple panacea for early season struggles.
“We just need to score goals, win games and all that good stuff,” he said.
The defending conference champion Bulldogs will look to get their first season of the win in their league opener against visiting Illiana Christian on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. RBHS then visits Brother Rice on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a nonconference matchup