MORRIS – Heading into the Northern Illinois Big 12 East soccer match between Morris and DeKalb, both teams had a strong feeling it was going to be a defensive-oriented contest.
Barbs coach Brent McIntosh says that coming to town and playing the Redskins is not an easy thing to do.
“Morris always plays well here on this field. They have a team with a lot of heart,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a battle.”
As most defensive-oriented battles go, this one came down to the Barbs (6-1-5, 4-0-1 NI Big 12) executing on a corner kick to get the lone goal of the contest. Owen Smith’s corner found sweeper Andrew Stratton and his header in the 35th minute got past Morris keeper Brian Vasquez.
“They were using the two-man in the corner and they used it well,” Morris coach David Valdivia said. “I’m surprised they didn’t score more than one on it.”
Morris senior defender Jacob Komperda said Stratton snuck in the picture at the last minute to get the header in.
“Someone should have been there,” Komperda said. “He just got through.”
Considering the way things have been, that goal was an ominous knell.
“When we first started out the game, we knew they had a tough team,” Komperda said. “Once they scored the goal and got out, we knew we had to step it up. We knew they’d be going man-on-man and it would be a challenge.”
Shots in general were at a premium on both sides of the ball with Morris (7-5-1, 1-4 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) generating just three shots on goal.
“We were expecting that,” Komperda said. “They like to spread the field wide and to have someone out to the side so they can send the ball and put pressure on you.”
McIntosh said that he was content to have his team sit on the lead once it got the initial goal.
“We were working to get up and once we got the first one, we dug in,” McIntosh said. “I thought we did some nice things, but at that point we were looking to kill it off. We’d have liked to score another goal, but at that point the focus was to just get numbers behind the ball.”
Valdivia said the Barbs’ hybrid defense was confusing to play against.
“They play a 5-4 and their sweeper is the one controlling it, but they also rotated the defense,” he said. “They were playing a four, five then a three, they were constantly switching things up. Their captain was good. He knows what he is doing back there. This is a team that talks. A very good program.”