WOODSTOCK – For almost 60 minutes during Wednesday’s Kishwaukee River Conference match between Woodstock and Woodstock North, the Blue Streaks couldn’t solve Thunder goalkeeper Aj Guanci.
Guanci stopped the first 10 shots he faced, which included five diving stops and a brilliant right-footed kick save.
That all changed midway through the second half, when Woodstock senior midfielder Brian Rico beat Guanci to a 50-50 ball about 20 yards away from the net, then hammered the ball home into an open goal for the game’s first tally.
It was the turning point in a 2-0 win for the Streaks (10-2, 4-1 KRC), who handed the Thunder (7-1-3, 3-1) their first loss of the season. Rico had been subbed in less than a minute earlier.
“I was really pumped up when that shot went in,” Rico said. “Being able to change the momentum of the match and knowing it helped pick my team up was a great feeling.
“When I saw I had a chance to beat him to that ball, I just ran as hard as I could. I try to be a player who puts in 100 percent and goes hard after every ball in every situation.”
Woodstock wasn’t done. Three minutes later, with 17:45 left in the second half, senior forward Max Lisowski scored on a pass from sophomore teammate Oscar Escorza.
“I saw a defender coming right at me, so I made a quick cut inside him to get around him,” Escorza said. “After that, I just put the ball in a good spot where Max could make a play, and he did.”
Lisowski’s goal essentially iced things, especially considering how well the Streaks were playing defensively. Woodstock didn’t allow a shot on goal until almost six minutes into the second half and outshot the Thunder, 12-5, by the end of the match.
“We knew this was a huge game in regards to the conference standings,” Woodstock coach Matt Warmbier said. “So for us to come out and play this well was big. We also won the conference last season, so to still have a chance to potentially defend our title is important to us as a team.”
Thunder coach John Liuzzi remained optimistic despite the significance of the loss. The two teams have split their regular-season series, as the Thunder shut out Woodstock, 1-0, to open the season.
“I told our guys in the postgame huddle, there’s still a lot of soccer left to be played yet, and we’re still right in the thick of things,” Liuzzi said. “We can’t hang our heads. We’re still right there near the top of the standings.
“We didn’t lose due to a lack of effort tonight. I felt we played pretty hard. Woodstock made big plays late in the second half when they needed to, and sometimes, that’s just how it goes.”
STAR OF THE MATCH
Brian Rico, Woodstock, sr., midfielder
Rico broke a scoreless tie midway through the second half by hustling to a 50-50 ball, then tallying what wound up being the game-winner.
46: Minutes Woodstock's defense held Woodstock North without a shot on goal Wednesday.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Woodstock had five corner kicks, while Woodstock North had one. Neither team was able to convert any of those chances.
Woodstock 2, Woodstock North 0
Woodstock North 0 0 --- 0
Woodstock 0 2 --- 2
W-Rico, 60th minute
W-Lisowski, (Escorza assist), 63rd minute
Woodstock-Alvarez: 5 shots, 5 saves. Woodstock North-Guanci: 12 shots, 10 saves.