PALOS HILLS | Was there revenge involved in Thornton’s 6-1 romp over Romeoville in Wednesday’s boys 3A regional semifinal at Stagg?
The Spartans had beaten Thornton in the opening match of the season.
The players remembered that.
“That motivated us more,” midfielder Ricardo Estrada said.
It motivated Estrada to the tune of a goal and an assist in a contest that the Spartans kept close for a half before finding themselves powerless to keep the Wildcats corralled.
“The first goal of the second half gave us a little momentum,” said forward Francisco Carbajal, who scored it at 2:56. His deep-angle shot from the right side hit Romeoville defender Aaron Deagueros in the left hand and tumbled into the net for a 2-1 Thornton lead.
Suddenly, the short snow shower was the least of Romeoville’s problems. Coming from behind a second time against a solid defensive team was a much bigger concern. And Thornton kept attacking, eventually piling up 23 shots to Romeoville’s nine.
Estrada’s 20-yard arrow from the left side ducked past Spartans goalkeeper Matt Gal to make it 3-1 less than six minutes later, and the rout was on. Three more Thornton goals followed in the final 21 minutes. Romeoville might wear orange, but the Wildcats were seeing red until the finish.
“We lost to Romeoville the first game of the season,” Carbajal reiterated. “I’ve had four years of playing varsity and I didn’t want it to end here.”
Thornton coach David Gonzalez? He was just trying to get the Wildcats to the next round, to Saturday’s regional championship against T.F. United, a 3 p.m. kickoff at Stagg. The Wildcats won the regional title last year.
“I guess there was,” Gonzalez said of the revenge factor. “In the next game, I guess you can count that, too.”
T.F. United beat a squad of Thornton freshmen in their regular-season encounter, one of three Thornton losses, against 17 victories. But the Wildcats varsity has only one loss, that one to Romeoville.
The Spartans had leveled the playing field in the final 25 minutes of the first half, but had only Jason Silvar’s nifty header from the left side of the penalty area to show for it on the scoreboard. Sharp as Thornton’s ball-handling skills are, the defense kept turning back the attack.
“We have better communication as a team this year,” Estrada said.
“We’re so deep, I can switch guys out and put another guy in the guy continues doing the same thing,” Gonzalez said. “It wears (a team down). And they’re all smart. This is my deepest team.”