BERWYN – Morton had won a regional title in each of Mike Caruso’s first eight years in charge of the boys soccer program until last year.
The Mustangs wiped away any chance of repeating that feat by beating Kelly 4-0 in the Morton regional final on Friday.
Edgar Garcia scored the opening goal in the first half and Morton put the match away with goals from Alonso Fregoso, Jovany Garcia and Chabello Marquez in the second half.
“You win eight straight and then you lose one and you’re going, oh man. You don’t want to lose two in a row,” Caruso said. “We just wanted to get through this any way [we could] and we did. We get back on the regional plaque after losing the one last year. Especially guys from last year’s team, it gave them a little more incentive to come through in this game.”
It was Morton’s 11th regional title in the past 12 years, and that doesn’t even count the 2001 sectional title when the IHSA didn’t use regionals.
With the win, No. 2 seed Morton advanced to the second sectional semifinal against No. 3 Benet at Hinsdale South Tuesday.
The Mustangs survived a nervewracking first half in the regional final and faced a familiar story of being unable to put away a team despite controlling the play. However, Morton got it together for a dominant second half.
“I thought [center midfielder] Mario Romero kind of struggled a little bit in the first half, him and Edgar Garcia,” Caruso said. “They kind of struggled in last year’s [regional championship] game, but at halftime they said they got a half left to take care of this game and they both came up big in the second half. Once they started to control the midfield that kind of gave us the overall possession of the game.”
Fregoso scored on a breakaway in the 58th minute to double the lead and calm Morton’s nerves. The Mustangs added two more goals down the stretch to seal the game.
“After such a tough loss last year I think it felt good to finally win a good game,” Garcia said.
The regional win was the Mustangs’ 19th shutout of the season. The key to the defensive prowess starts with goalkeeper Ian Chacon, but it’s also in Morton’s ability to keep possession.
“He saves us a lot on our mistakes,” Garcia said. “Our defense is really good at stopping them and then boom, we just go back to passing and keeping possession.”