MAPLE PARK – After the DeKalb boys soccer team beat Kaneland a few weeks ago, Knights coach Scott Parillo knew plenty of adjustments needed to be made for Thursday’s match against the Barbs. DeKalb’s speed up top was too much to handle, and the Knights needed to cut down on simple mistakes.
Kaneland’s adjustments worked for the first half Thursday, when the Knights took an early 1-0 lead, but DeKalb shifted into a different gear in the second and went on to win 2-1 on goals from Will Ferguson and Dylan Hottsmith.
“It wasn’t so much any adjustment in any Xs and Os or technical or tactical, it was a complete adjustment in our mindset (in the second half),” DeKalb coach Brent McIntosh McIntosh said. “First half was a lot of Kaneland being better than us in a lot of intangible areas. The work rate, the effort, the 50/50 balls, it was all favoring Kaneland at that point in time. We know what we’re capable of physically, and it was a collective mindset that we came out and it was very detrimental to us.”
The Knights controlled the match early, and they were rewarded eight minutes in when Arsim Azemi played a long, pinpoint pass into the penalty area for Tyler Siebert, who placed his shot into the lower corner to give Kaneland the early lead.
Kaneland (5-5-3, 2-2-2 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) held plenty of possession throughout the half, but it couldn’t add insurance when the match was flowing its way. Finally, DeKalb (10-2, 6-0 NI Big 12 East) scored against the run of play with less than four minutes left in the first half, when Misha Rhyzhov found Will Ferguson in the penalty area, and Ferguson placed a shot past a scrum of defenders.
In the second half, DeKalb began to control the game, but quality chances were still difficult to come by before DeKalb senior Sean Woodford hit the post on a shot from outside the penalty area with 9:30 left.
The Barbs finally broke through a minute later, when Brandon Canaday played a long ball into the penalty area, and Hottsmith’s leaping flick-on header found the back of the net.
“The second half was definitely our game. We just got lucky at the end of the first half to come away with the goal,” Hottsmith said. “Instead of just trying to knock balls over the top with our speed, we possessed it a little bit more, and we do play a lot just hit and run because it was there, but when it wasn’t there, we did a good job of possessing and trying to get up the field more.”
Thursday marked the start of the second half of the NI Big 12 East season, and the Barbs know they have a target on their backs after sweeping through each of the conference teams in the first half. Saturday’s test showed them how difficult the stretch run will be.
“I feel great about [the conference season] so far,” Woodford said. “This game was definitely a game we needed to show its not going to be easy. Teams are getting used to us, but it’ll be a great second half, I feel like we’re going to finish off the season stronger.”