If the first four games of the season have proven anything about Naperville North, it is that the Huskies’ most dangerous offensive players are not the forwards.
No, that honor goes to the defenders.
The Huskies have scored six goals, four of which have been tallied by defenders. All four starting fullbacks have scored one, with senior Wesley Wong the latest to find the back of the net when he scored off a corner kick to lift host Naperville North (3-1) to a 1-0 victory over Neuqua Valley on Tuesday on the first night of the Best of the West tournament.
Wong’s goal came with 21:02 left in the second half. He rushed the net and met Chris Sullivan’s corner kick with a powerful header that went under the crossbar.
“I started from the outside of the box and I figured out I’m harder to mark if you’re constantly on the move when the ball is dead,” Wong said. “So I decided to make a running start instead of standing in place. I love crashing the six-yard box and putting it in.”
The Huskies have been extremely dangerous on set pieces this season, especially on corner kicks. They barely missed converting on a pair of corners in the final 25 seconds of the first half, but Brandon Hipp was unlucky to knock a pair of sliding shots wide of the left post.
Hipp’s position? Defender, of course.
“Sullivan already has three or four assists off corner kicks,” Wong said. “He’s been taking them really well and he’s always putting them in the spot where we always want it. He’s always putting it in the most dangerous spots in the box.”
That is no accident.
“The nice thing about this group of guys is they are incredibly coachable,” Naperville North coach Jim Konrad said. “Usually working on restarts is a tough thing. It’s boring when you’re standing around.
“It’s the minutia of soccer and yet it’s something that we’ve taken great pride in at North over the years. It’s something that we really emphasize and the boys buy in. This year they’ve really bought in.”
That comes as no surprise to Neuqua Valley coach Skip Begley.
“Naperville North has been a quality program from that perspective,” Begley said. “They defend very well and limit their chances. Maybe offensively we did a pretty good job defensively of holding their offense but they’re a quality set piece team.
“[Wong] is a big guy. It was perfectly timed, he rose up and I don’t think we got a body on him early enough and the ball’s in the back of the net.”
With Wong, Hipp, Matt Sylvester and Kevin Keane holding off a strong surge by Neuqua Valley (1-3) in the second half, goalkeeper Christian Robert had to make just four saves to record his third shutout.
Neuqua star Ryan Ross took four of his team’s eight shots, including a 45-yard free kick that deflected off a defender and hit the right post with 6:45 to go.Tags: Naperville North, Neuqua Valley