Boys soccer: Previewing the MSL Soccer Cup
42nd MSL Soccer Cup
Fremd (11-4-1) at Buffalo Grove (14-4-1)When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Grant Blaney Stadium
Who to WatchFremd: Joe Beaupre (Sr, F), Artur Cholewa (Jr, GK, 10 shutouts, 0.51), Vince Daidone (Sr, MF), Dorian Lesiuk (Sr, MF-F, 11G), Connor Sapiente (Sr, MF), Jake Scesniak (Sr, MF-D), Jake Schoffstall (Jr, D, 4g), Anthony Tambellini (Sr, MF).
Buffalo Grove: Ryan Berk (Jr, MF, 7g), Kevin Eloiza (Sr, MF-F, 8g, 18a), Brian Hanus (Sr, D), Ryan Kim (Jr, MF), Christian Kozaczka (Sr, D), Jon Peici (Sr, F, 10g), Brian Perez (So, MF, 6, g, 12a).
History lessonFremd: This will be a league-best 14th appearance for the Vikings, who in 2014 would defeat Wheeling. Before that, on a frigid night in Elk Grove, Steve Keller's team would lift the trophy to end a 17-year long title drought. The 2014 club featured Zach and Luke Schoffstall, older brothers of Jake and Eli Schoffstall, both key figures in the Vikings' title run.
Buffalo Grove: The Bison are here for the second consecutive season, third in the last four years, and the seventh in program history. The last time the Bison carried off the big trophy was 30 years ago when then-junior Brian McBride led his teammates to the state title. McBride would later go on to become one of the best ever U.S. National Team players, and a star while playing for Fulham in the English Premier League.
Scouting reportFremd: This final will feature the two best defensive clubs during the regular season, with the Vikings conceding a mere three goals in 11 matches, the Bison just nine. While each championship club is built around sturdy back line units, each owns plenty of firepower going forward to give even the best of defensive sides some nervous moments.
The Vikings welcomed back four (Daidone, Lesiuk, Sapiente, Tambellini) from club soccer this fall, to give them that extra attacking edge, and along with returning players Beaupre, Bennett and Scesniak have aided them on their course into this final.
"We had some talented players already here, but when those four came back from club it gave us so many more players who could create and generate chances for others, which has made us a much better team this season," said Jake Schoffstall.
The Vikings' solidarity along the back is defined by a group led by Schoffstall and his teammates Scesniak, and fellow juniors Kaelan Conway and Cole Jackson, who have minimized chances for keeper Artur Cholewa, who has recorded 9 shutouts on the year.
Fremd coach Steve Keller has always prepared his teams with a balanced league and nonconference schedule, and the Vikings have performed well against quality sides, even in defeat.
"The plan all along for each of us was to come back and play our senior season here at Fremd, and I am really glad that we did, and now we have a chance to win a MSL championship," said Lesiuk.
Keller, Lesiuk and Schoffstall all feel their 1-0 loss to nationally-ranked Naperville North proved that on any given night, they can offer steep challenges to any opponent.
"If we come out mentally and physically ready to play, we can get the result we want to earn one of the goals we set forth prior to our season," said Keller.
Buffalo Grove: The Bison signaled they're ready for this contest with a strong statement of intent following a 4-1 victory over Barrington last Friday in the regular-season finale.
"We've been kind of living on the edge during our last few games of the year, so it was good to see the boys come out attacking, defending, and just playing a strong 80 minutes of both sides of the ball," said Bison head coach, Darren Llewellyn.
Llewellyn came to BG this fall after years of success in the boys and girls program at Hersey, bringing with him a reputation as a defensive genius of sorts.
"We always thought that (Llewellyn) was this guy who had so many different tactics and formations, and while he does, and we like it, he also has given our attack the freedom to do different things as well, and it's a big reason for our success," opined senior Brian Hanus, who with his teammate Christian Kozaczka form one of the best center-back duos around.
Yet while the Bison has been stout, it's the skill and talent in the BG attack that has made its mark this fall.
All-state candidate Kevin Eloiza is dangerous, with and without the ball, while the midfield trio of Berk, Kim and Perez are each creative in their own right, and highly capable as well.
Jon Peici has been the surprise package in the league and all around the area, bagging 10 goals, many of them game-winners, and most Goal-of-the-Year worthy to become an imposing figure up top as a Bison front-runner.
"This team can defend and score, and with players like (Peici) and Shane Adams stepping in so well, we all believe that we can compete with anyone," added Kozaczka.