When Evanston boys soccer coach Franz Calixte put together a round-robin tournament early in the season 10 years ago, he added a little something extra.
At the end of each game of the Evanston Invitational, both teams also compete in a penalty kick shootout. The idea? To help coaches find out who the reliable offensive players would be in pressure situations that could arise during the Illinois High School Association state tournament series.
Ten years later that’s still the idea and now ETHS actually adds points to help determine the overall standings for teams who score PK triumphs.
But it was a goalie who received a big boost from the unusual format Tuesday night at Lazier Field.
Just a couple of minutes after registering a crucial save to preserve a 1-0 victory for the Wildkits, senior goalkeeper Daniel Linder stopped 3 shots in a row in the PK portion of the night to deliver another triumph over Lake Forest Academy in the first round of tourney play.
Evanston (2-0-1 overall) plays Mather on Thursday at 7 p.m. and will conclude tourney play Saturday at noon versus Walter Payton Prep.
Linder’s remarkable defensive effort didn’t prevent the first-year varsity starter from keeping his perspective. He recognized that his kick save against LFA’s Enrique Rocha with approximately two minutes left in regulation play — only his second save of the night — was bigger than anything that occurred during the PKs.
“I think the one at the end of the game was more meaningful, especially because it came so late,” Linder explained. “I don’t think we would have had time to counter if they had scored there. And getting a result (win) is what really matters.
“In that situation I mostly just tried to make myself ‘big’ and hope he hits it right at me. I’m just glad I was in the right spot at the right time.
“There’s no really formal PK training for a goalie and I’ve never played in a tournament where I did it, either. It’s not really as meaningful in a low-stake situation like tonight, but it’s really helpful for me because stopping 3 in a row will really give me confidence.
“I got fired up after that save late in the game and it was a really big energy boost for me. You can ride that kind of energy and that’s what I did for the PKs.”
Linder rejected PK tries by Issei Terada, Jason Woo and Stefan Momcilovic to set up a PK-winning score by freshman Martin Torres-Moreno as part of the 3-2 outcome in Evanston’s favor. Frank Berkely and Morais Lee also converted successful PKs for the winners.
Linder, who moved to Evanston from Massachusetts in the summer of 2018 when his father landed a position at Northwestern University, was the No. 1 keeper for the junior varsity squad last year. He showed Tuesday that the Kits can count on him in the clutch.
“He stopped a couple of penalty kicks in practice, and he also had a PK save in our game against Waukegan (preserving a 1-1 tie),” Calixte pointed out. “So that means the first six times he faced a penalty kick he got a save. It’s always good to know you have a guy back there you can count on like that in that situation.
“Daniel’s one of our captains and I think that speaks volumes about him. That was his first shutout and he really earned it. He had to make a big save for us at the end, and that was really huge!”
Evanston solved LFA’s low-pressure defense for its only goal in the 16th minute, when Dylan Kimball found the back of the net off a perfect feed from Lee. Lake Forest keeper Nick Shapiro kept the hosts off the board the rest of the night and was credited with 8 saves overall.
“Our stats showed we had 19 (scoring) opportunities in the first half, we were only on target with 5 of those, and we scored the one goal,” Calixte said. “And in the second half we had 15 opportunities, and only 2 of those were on target. We’re creating a lot of opportunities — and that’s great — but we have to do a better job of scoring. We should have had 3 or 4 more goals.”