Franz Calixte has made nothing but good decisions since he took over the Evanston soccer program.
But the veteran head coach’s best move may have been this year when he promoted freshman Martin Torres-Moreno to the varsity after preseason training camp.
Torres-Moreno continued to pay dividends off the bench Tuesday night in Northbrook, rallying the Wildkits to a 3-1 triumph over Glenbrook North by scoring two goals in the last six minutes of the Central Suburban League South division contest.
The Wildkits saw their streak of 7 straight shutouts snapped when North’s David Schueler scored on a penalty kick in the second half, but kept their unbeaten season alive thanks to Torres-Moreno’s clutch play.
The first-year phenom from Panama — who has only been in this country 3 months and doesn’t speak much English — is one of the squad’s leading scorers to date. Evanston improved to 9-0-1 overall after Tuesday’s win, 3-0 in league play with another test coming on Thursday against Glenbrook South.
“It sure is refreshing to know the last 10 minutes of the game is Martin time,” said Calixte after the freshman also notched a late goal in last week’s win at Maine South. “At the end of the game, he not only wants the ball, he wants to do something with it. All great goal scorers are hungry like that.
“Martin has a nose for the ball and plays with great balance. And if he gets inside the offensive one-third of the field, he always looks to shoot.”
On a windy night at Lutz Stadium, it looked like the Kits would have to settle for a 1-1 tie after Evanston’s Quinn Ackman and Schueler traded penalty kick goals. Schueler’s tally in the 62nd minute beat goalie Daniel Linder, only the third goal allowed by ETHS all year. Linder finished with 5 saves.
That’s when Torres-Moreno stepped up. He deflected a pass from Ackman with 5:57 remaining into the back of the net, and at the 4:03 mark scored with Dominique Bahombwa picking up the assist.
“The preseason tryouts were really hard work and I was super proud when I made the team,” said Torres-Moreno. “I was very grateful and now I have the chance to keep working really hard. Since I was little, I’ve played with guys who are older and more experienced, so this is really like being back at home and playing with the older guys for me.”
Calixte didn’t relish seeing Evanston’s streak of “clean sheets” come to an end, but the ETHS coach certainly wasn’t superstitious about the streak. He started 3 different defenders with Frank Berkely in the back row in the second half — Nick James, Morais Lee and Paul McCandlish — replacing game starters Teo Collantes Cook, Christian Calian and Charlie Levisay.
James played in just his second game coming off the injured list and the defensive effort picked up noticeably with the senior co-captain in the lineup. Calixte knows his team’s quality depth extends to the back line, too, and is still searching for the perfect combinations despite the stretch of shutout soccer played by the Kits.
“Right now I think we have a nice rotation in the back,” said the coach, who said senior Adrian Morales will also play extensive minutes. “I was happy with our defense tonight. It would have been nice if we had kept that streak going, but that penalty kick was really the only shot on goal that they had.”