Boys Soccer: Kelly falls to Oak Park-River Forest, takes solace in playing again

Updated: September 20, 2012 10:26PM

The look on the face of Alessandro Juarez was far from sorrow or disappointment. The Kelly senior keeper and his teammates answered their own riddle. How do you lose and still come out on top.

“We’re just happy we still have our season,” he said.

The visiting Trojans failed to protect a 1-0 lead as Oak Park-River Forest scored twice in the final 14 minutes to pull out the 2-1 victory Thursday night.

Senior Huskies’ midfielder Okker Verhagen scored the game-winner in the 74th minute on a beautiful scissors kick that curled into the near post. The scoring sequence originated as a thrown-in from senior defender Dan Gryzlo. Pat Callahan scored on a penalty kick for the Huskies (7-5-1) in the 66th minute.

Junior forward Brian Leon scored on a left-footed blast in the 19th minute for Kelly (4-3-3).

Juarez is the Trojans’ leader and the primary force that helped the team stay together during the Chicago Teachers Union strike forced Kelly to forfeit two games in the Pepsi Showdown.

The IHSA denied a special Public League waiver that athletic contests be permitted to continue during the labor impasse.

“We knew for a while the strike was coming, and we knew we had to stay together as a team,” Juarez said. “We didn’t have any contact with our coach, or any other adult supervision, but we knew we had to stay in shape and continue to work on our game during the strike.”

Leon said Juarez helped pull the players together and organize five practices. “Our team is close, and we all grew up together, in the same tough and violent neighborhoods and we know what it takes to hang together,” he said.

Senior forward Omar Guzman, who assisted Leon’s goal, said the players gathered at dawn at McKinley Park. “Those five days, we practiced from 6 until 10 in the morning, working on drills and conditioning,” he said.

In their first game since Sept. 8, Kelly defeated Amundsen 2-0 Wednesday night in a Premier game. Now, the scramble is on for Public League teams to coordinate and adjust their schedules on the fly.

Kelly coach Stan Mietus said the Trojans are playing every day next week. Public League teams already have a shorter window to complete their regular season because of the city tournament. One casualty of the altered schedules is the possibility Kelly and Lane — two of the city’s top teams — are going to waive their conference showdown.

Still, the possibility of losing more than a game was not something the players wanted to confront. “When we got back to school [Wednesday], everybody was so happy, the teachers, too,” Juarez said.

“Everybody’s happy we are back playing,” he said.

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