Rodrigo Villanueva fully admits the Janesville Craig boys soccer team has not yet reached its potential.
The Cougars entered Thursday averaging less than a goal per game in getting off to a 2-5-1 start. And they barely helped that mark by scoring just three goals against a team allowing seven per match.
But Villanueva, one of Craig’s captains, believes his team is headed in the right direction.
And in fact, that was a sentiment shared by both of the crosstown rivals after Craig picked up a 3-0 victory at Parker in a Big Eight Conference match.
“We definitely have potential, we’re just still working some new players in and are yet to be a well-oiled machine,” said Villanueva, a Craig senior. “But we’re going to get there eventually.
“(Tonight) was definitely a wake-up call after the first half, but we’re happy with the result. It could’ve been a lot better, but at least we came out with a win.”
It was Craig’s eighth consecutive victory in the crosstown rivalry series.
Parker (1-3 overall, 0-2 Big Eight) was coming off an 11-0 loss at Verona on Tuesday but trailed just 1-0 at halftime.
“It was a good game, I’m proud of them,” Parker coach Jason Augustine said. “Just play together, stay together, and even if the game is not going our way, fight hard—that’s been our message and our motto.”
Freshman Gabriel Diaz made his first city derby match a memorable one by giving Craig the lead int he 38th minute. Senior AJ Anhold threw the ball in from in front of the Parker bench toward the top of the scoring box, and Diaz arced a right-footed shot into the left side of the net.
Still, Craig coach Garrett McCabe felt his team suffered from another slow start in the opening 30 minutes.
“We were definitely struggling in the first half, and that’s kind of been a recurring theme,” McCabe said. “Our guys have the potential, but sometimes they don’t mentally engage themselves on the field, in the moment.
“It was a better second half, but we’re not where we should be right now.”
Too often, particularly early on, Craig’s offense settled for long-range shots and attempted to move straight in up the field instead of using angles or crossing passes.
Parker junior keeper Parker Karpes also did his part in keeping the Cougars off the scoreboard, making 10 saves.
Craig doubled its lead, however, thanks to a rare buildup from the edge. A run up the end line and pass toward the front of the goal turned into a bit of a free-for-all. Craig sophomore Cole Vesely found the ball at his feet and buried it to make it 2-0 at 58:13.
Exactly nine minutes later, Cougars junior Alan Pacheco drove a hard free kick from about 25 yards straight into the left side of the net to make it 3-0.
“Sometimes they make it more difficult on themselves than it needs to be,” McCabe said. “And once you get in the habit of doing that, it’s difficult to try and change mentalities. We need to go back to what we train for and do. It was better in the second half.
“All we can ask for is that they keep working and trying.”
Senior Ty Bienema made four saves in the first half and sophomore Reed Kelly made one in the second to register the clean sheet for the Cougars, who play in a tournament this weekend in Milton.
“I think by the end of the season, we’ll get there,” Villanueva said. “I’m confident we’ll be successful by then. It’s just putting together some of the puzzle pieces that need to fit in.”
CRAIG 3, PARKER 0
Janesville Craig 1 2—3
Janesville Parker 0 0—0
C—Gabriel Diaz (AJ Anhold), 37:35.
C—Cole Vesely, 58:13. C—Alan Pacheco, 67:13.
Saves—Ty Bienema (C) 4, Reed Kelly (C) 1, Parker Karpes (P) 10. Shots—Craig 29, Parker 8. Shots on goal—Craig 13, Parker 5. Corner kicks—Craig 9, Parker 2. Fouls—Craig 12, Parker 6. Offside—Craig 3, Parker 3.