De Leon Heads DePaul in the Right Direction
Aug. 14, 2011
CHARLESTON, Ill. – Leave it to a sophomore and a freshman to kick-start DePaul’s exhibition season on Sunday.
Ray De Leon’s header in the 54th minute off a cross from freshman Anthony Hunter gave the Blue Demons a 1-0 victory over Eastern Illinois at Lakeside Field.
“Being young is no longer a factor for us,” said De Leon of a DePaul roster in which 23 of the 28 players are freshmen or sophomores. “I told the guys it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or sophomore.
“Once you step on the field, you look like any other player.”
Douglas and Gustafson started on a back line that combined with defenders Austin Toth, a sophomore, and senior Matt Leinauer in pitching the shutout. Sophomore Eric Sorby started at goalkeeper and freshman Joseph Hart took over in the second half.
“The coaching staff is very pleased with the performance and the result,” said DePaul coach Craig Blazer. “These guys are working so well together and are so eager to get back to winning.”
DePaul outshot the Panthers 15-12 and had seven shots on goal to five for Eastern Illinois. The Blue Demons had a 5-4 edge in corner kicks. Sorby was credited with three saves and Hart with two.
The game-winning sequence began with DePaul’s defenders quickly moving the ball out of their own zone. Sophomore Zach Forbes took possession in the midfield, turned and found the speedy Hunter streaking down the right side.
“Everyone knows that Anthony is fast and plays with a lot of pace,” De Leon said. “He beat the first defender and basically put it on a plate for me.
“I had to time my run down the middle of the field. The header came inside the left side of the box.
“It was just instinct, and that’s when I score some of my best goals.”
Blazer has installed a high-press style of play, and his young team has responded well to this more aggressive tactic.
“The guys feed off each other, and it’s like a domino effect,” De Leon said. “We want to get the ball back as quick as possible.
“AT the other end, all four defenders worked so well as a unit. That togetherness---they were like a wall and very hard to penetrate. Jake is a very talented defender, and Gustafson really stepped it up in the back a lot.”
Blazer played all 17 players and both goalies that he brought to Eastern Illinois.
“I was pleased with the team effort from the entire group,” Blazer said. “Our defensive pressure was good. There's still lots we need to work on, but things are starting to take shape.
“It’s very encouraging the way these guys are so excited to work together.”
DePaul hits the road again on Saturday for an exhibition match at Western Michigan.