Kelly Walsh got in front of Evanston quickly Saturday with the confidence of Friday’s blowout win over the three-time defending champion Jackson Broncs fresh in their minds. Goals after that, however, didn’t come as freely. Evanston slowed the pace and controlled the ball more in the latter part of the first half through the second half to get within a goal before falling short of a comeback.
Alex Perez tallied his third goal in two games, added an assist to Matt Hitchcock and helped the Trojans midfield stay strong in the last 10 minutes as Kelly Walsh held on to beat Evanston 2-1 at the Tom Staffileno Activity Complex.
He followed up his two goals from Friday by slipping past the defense and beating the goalkeeper in the sixth minute to give Kelly Walsh the early 1-0 lead. The Trojans stayed on the attack for most of the first half after that. With strength in the midfield, Perez got to the outside and sent a low cross through the box, which Matt Hitchcock gently tapped in to double the lead in the 28th minute. By halftime Saturday, no team had scored on the Kelly Walsh defense since Sheridan’s overtime winner with 1:11 remaining in the season opener. A 201-minute, 11-second shutout streak was intact.
That scoreless streak was snapped at 217 minutes and 11 seconds when Evanston solved its offensive woes and eventually won a corner kick in the 56th minute.
Pablo Escalante took a look into the box, delivered the corner where he wanted it, and teammate Kevin Najar headed it into the net to cut the lead in half.
Kelly Walsh did respond with a sustained counter attack, but a majority of the resulting shots were off goal.
“Those kids have a scoring mindset,” head coach Bryan Chadderdon said. “We’ve created some chances by scoring that way. I think sometimes we took some shots that weren’t perfect, but I credit them for wanting to score and put the pressure on the other team, so we’ll continue to do that.”
Just six of Kelly Walsh’s 16 shots were on net and only four of them required goalkeeper Seth Davis to come off his line for the save.
The Trojans, who were hoping to solidify an identity at the end of the week, may have done just that. With goal-minded forwards, a stiff midfield and defenders who stay strong on the ball and like to push the tempo quickly, Kelly Walsh has the makings of a tough team to beat.
Chadderdon will add an emphasis on finishing shots during practice before the Trojans’ next game April 4, but he also believes it’s just a matter of time before some of the more adventurous shots yield results.
“It’s early in the season as far as preciseness of finishing,” he said. “So we’ll work on getting in the box a little bit more and finishing under pressure so a lot of those goals we missed will come later in the season.”