Offense struggles to find a goal in Boys Soccer City Semifinal loss 2-0


Mara Mellits

Goalkeeper Jeremiah Higgins in midair jumping for the ball while it shoots past him and into the net.

By Mara Mellits

After losing in the City Championship Final in the 2020 season, the Lane Boys Soccer team hoped to regain that plaque this season. Their performance on Tuesday made sure they wouldn’t get the chance to fight for it. 

Tuesday evening, Lane hosted the Walter Payton Grizzlies at Lane Stadium, with a spot in the city final on the line. 

From the first few minutes of the game, both teams were fired up. Lane, coming off a win against Jones on Saturday, came in as the underdog after losing to Payton 3-0 in the regular season. 

However, Lane’s fire didn’t last long as the Grizzlies quickly found the holes in Lane’s formation. Once they did, they were able to score two goals and punch their ticket to the final by a score of 2-0. 

“On their two moments when they scored two goals they beat us — those weren’t fluke goals,” Lane Head Coach Andrew Ricks said postgame

But Payton’s win didn’t come easy.

Just in the first minute of the game, Payton quickly set themselves up with a corner kick and then a few minutes later, a free-kick. These chances at goal continued for both teams but with little success. Payton and Lane both lacked direction.

On their chances at goal, Lane players sent the ball flying above the net, giving the kick too much air. Payton was able to move the ball upfield efficiently, using the same pattern each time. 

Lane, on the other hand, had no control, sending the ball away and disrupting the natural flow between the defense, midfield and strikers. 

Lane’s loss of control and direction led to the multitude of missed chances — what should’ve been goals. Lane had more shots on goal than Payton did, yet still walked away with zero points on the board.

After the first fifteen minutes of the game, Lane toned down their aggression, saving their energy and not running up to the ball like the Grizzlies were doing to them. Every single time Lane had the ball, the Grizzlies pounced on it, not allowing for Lane to get through.  

Lane became much more timid throughout the game with their defense too tired for the aggressive Payton offense. Lane’s defensive problems caught up to them and their passing weakened under the strong pressure from Payton, with the game getting slower for Lane while it sped up for the Grizzlies. 

“I feel like we had a hard time clearing the ball. I mean they scored a goal because we couldn’t clear it out,” Senior Thurston Page said postgame. 

It wasn’t a total shock when the Grizzlies got their first goal, a perfect volley off a rebound, narrowly missing goalkeeper Jeremiah Higgins’s fingertips. Higgins was visibly distraught after the goal, slowly getting up after the mistake. 

“The first goal, we had no one behind the ball, and unfortunately, just one little thing, we had it in the center of the goal as opposed to out up and out wide, and they made us pay for it,” Ricks said. 

After that, Lane rushed for an equalizer with a couple of shots on goal but they had too much air on them. The team was in disarray as the midfield began picking up for the defense and Lane desperately tried to fix their holes with halftime rolling in. 

During the second half, Lane tried something new. They desperately wanted a goal so they moved most of their players up, leaving an empty field once the Grizzlies controlled the ball. 

In the heat of Lane’s desperation, they rushed but didn’t get back fast enough to protect the goal and their tired mistakes caught up to them. 

The second half became a continuation of the first half with almost-goals for Lane, yet none hit the net. 

Ricks said Lane scored no goals because of Payton’s much stronger dominance and control of the ball. 

“I think that Payton got numbers behind the ball,” Ricks said. “I don’t think we took our chances [on goal].” 

One difference in this half was the sportsmanship between the teams. Lane players and coaches repeatedly complained to the referees about a lack of sportsmanship of a Payton player, with one Lane player coming off the field visibly in pain. 

With fourteen minutes left in the game, Payton got their second goal of the match with it just hitting the crossbar. 

“The second goal, we may have had a little bit of lapse in judgment. And they zipped the ball around the weak side and had a great finish,” Ricks said. 

The game ended with Payton playing as the better team. They had more dominance, speed and power to their playing style than Lane did. 

“I think that Payton beat us. The one thing in any game that you play, you don’t want the referee to make the decision of the game, you don’t want to have a big mistake,” Ricks said. “I honestly felt that they played better.”

The Grizzlies will play in the city championship Thursday, Oct. 14, at Lane Stadium against Washington. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. 

“We’re just trying to tick off our preseason goals — we got a conference championship, the first one, city championship, the second one, so we’re doing what we set out to do, so that’s what’s pretty exciting right now,” Payton Head Coach Paul Escobar said postgame. 

With it being senior night for Lane boys, fans poured into Lane stadium hoisting signs and calling out chants for players. The festivities of the night didn’t change anything for the team, as they went ahead with their usual starting lineup instead of giving preference to playing seniors. 

After the game, some players walked off the field visibly upset, voicing their concerns that tradition wasn’t followed and that seniors were honored in a city playoff game where Lane was favored as the underdog rather than an earlier game and one which they were favored to win. 

“There’s an end for everyone. Seniors from both teams don’t walk away winning in this game. Someone’s gonna lose. And we’ve had chances, we’re a team that’s won city championships but we’ve lost as well,” Ricks said. 

Lane’s will start state play next Tuesday, Oct. 19, as the eight seed in the New Trier Sectional. They take on eleven seed at Leyden in the 3A Regional Semifinals.