Defense leads Team Evanston to national title

The Team Evanston U14 Premier boys soccer team includes (front row, left to right) Zach Rogers (Evanston), Isaac Diop (Evanston), Nathan Pollack (Evanston), Simon Jillson (Chicago), Luis Molina (Chicago), Rudy Bieglmeier (Chicago) and Noah Dolan (Wilmette); (back row, left to right) coach Isaac Moushi, Aidan Tobin (Evanston), Reed Schaefer (Chicago), Niko Kapetan (Evanston), Jonathan Meneses (Chicago), Colin Thompson (Evanston), Jonathan Chavez (Bensenville), Mateo Blair (Wilmette), Deniz Gundogdu (Chicago). | Submitted
The Team Evanston U14 Premier boys soccer team includes (front row, left to right) Zach Rogers (Evanston), Isaac Diop (Evanston), Nathan Pollack (Evanston), Simon Jillson (Chicago), Luis Molina (Chicago), Rudy Bieglmeier (Chicago) and Noah Dolan (Wilmette); (back row, left to right) coach Isaac Moushi, Aidan Tobin (Evanston), Reed Schaefer (Chicago), Niko Kapetan (Evanston), Jonathan Meneses (Chicago), Colin Thompson (Evanston), Jonathan Chavez (Bensenville), Mateo Blair (Wilmette), Deniz Gundogdu (Chicago). | Submitted

 

The Team Evanston U14 Premier boys soccer team hoisted a prestigious trophy when it won its division at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup.

Team Evanston defeated Montgomery (Pennsylvania) Arsenal on penalty kicks in the July 13 final in Greenville, South Carolina, after the teams were scoreless through regulation and two extra sessions.

It was the first boys or girls national title in the history of Team Evanston, which has been around since 1991. The U14 boys were the first team in club history to reach the national tournament, which the squad did by winning the state title and the Region II crown. Team Evanston then went 1-0-2 in group play at nationals.

The Presidents Cup is open to all clubs not a part of the United States Soccer Development Academy system.

“This [title] has taken our club to another level,” said Issac Moushi, the team’s coach and Team Evanston’s director of coaching. “Other players, clubs and leagues are going to recognize us as one of the elite clubs in the area. It’s also great for the younger teams [at the club], motivating them to work harder to hopefully have an opportunity like this.”

Moushi said the team’s success was much more about the collective effort than the performances of a few individuals.

“I honestly feel like it was a team effort. We don’t have superstars,” Moushi said of the squad that had five players from Evanston and two from Wilmette.

Defense was a team strength. Team Evanston outscored its four opponents 15-0 at the Region II finals in mid-June in Overland Park, Kansas. Goalkeeper Simon Jillson of Chicago posted shutouts in three of the four games at nationals and made a save to clinch the shootout.

The back line included Colin Thompson (Evanston), Zach Rogers (Chicago), Niko Kapetan (Evanston) and Noah Dolan (Wilmette). Aiden Tobin (Evanston) also saw time on defense, and Mateo Blair (Wilmette) helped out the defense as a holding midfielder.

“I think everyone on the back line just motivated each other,” said Thompson, who played left back. “When one kid had a good tackle, you were motivated to get the ball and not let your man get past you.”

The team did have one forgettable half, when it fell behind 3-0 to the Laredo (Texas) Heat in the second group game on July 11. After having played to a 0-0 tie against Montgomery Arsenal in the opener, Team Evanston went into the break against Laredo staring elimination in the face.

But Team Evanston staged a rousing comeback, scoring three second-half goals, earning a 3-3 tie and gaining a point in the standings. The game became a defining moment in the team’s run to the title.

“At halftime, Coach [Moushi] said he wasn’t mad at us and that we had still played well, but that we let up three bad goals,” said forward/fielder Nathan Pollack, an Evanston resident and the team captain. “We had to step up the intensity, but play the same way we had. It felt great to tie it up.”

A 1-0 win over Oxnard (California) in the last group game ensured Team Evanston’s spot in the final and a rematch with Montgomery Arsenal.

In the final, the teams played their second stalemate of the weekend, but Pollack, Deniz Gundogdu (Chicago) and Jonathan Meneses (Chicago) converted their spot kicks, while two of Arsenal’s penalty takers missed the goal completely.

When Jillson stopped the title-clinching PK, the Team Evanston players flooded the field in celebration.

“We were overwhelmed, screaming and jumping,” Pollack said. “It was a really great game. We knew we had come all the way here and won it.”

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