BERWYN – Morton seniors Giovanni Alvarez and Daniel Martinez often played soccer together in local parks while they were growing up.
Alvarez would shoot the ball and Martinez, a goalkeeper, would try to stop him from scoring.
On Saturday, the longtime friends teamed up to stop an upset bid by Libertyville. Alvarez scored the tying goal on a great individual effort and Martinez later made a point-blank save as Morton salvaged a 1-1 tie in Berwyn.
Libertyville ( 7-5-2) took a 1-0 lead when Jacob Salgo scored on a perfectly placed 20-yard shot over the head of Morton’s starting goalkeeper, Sebastian Mayorga, with 36:48 left in the second half.
Three minutes later, Mayorga was forced from the game with an ankle injury and Martinez replaced him.
“It was weird coming in cold off the bench,” Martinez said. “It was very tough.
“I was literally jittery when I was doing my goal kicks and I messed up one, actually. But once I warmed up and got my head into the game, I felt like I was comfortable again.”
Alvarez helped Martinez feel comfortably by, ironically, yelling at him after a flubbed goal kick.
“I knew once he went in, he already had his head in the game,” Alvarez said. “But he kind of tweaked one a little bit so someone had to scream at him.
“I screamed at him and got his head into the game. I grew up with him, going to parks to play with him, so we’re very close.”
Alvarez pulled the top-ranked Mustangs (10-0-2) even when he scored his ninth goal of the season at the 26:14 mark. He got the ball about 25 yards from the Libertyville net, dribbled around and through three defenders before rolling a 10-yard shot inside the right post.
“It feels good to bring up the team like that, especially when we were 1-0 down,”Alvarez said. “But it would have been better if we were tied when I scored that goal and put us on top.
“I think everybody would like that feeling. But it was two great teams, and ended 1-1.”
It might not have if not for the quick reactions of Martinez, who charged off his line when Libertyville’s Ben Nuttall broke through the Morton defense in the middle of the box.
Martinez made a terrific diving stop on Nuttall and cut down the angle just enough so a rebound shot went wide left with11:40 remaining.
“I just waited for him to take that one touch, because once he took the touch, he was going to take the shot,” Martinez said. “So I felt like I needed to rush out at him as soon as possible, just close the angle before he could get it off to the corner (of the net).”
Morton coach Jim Bageanis was happy to see it.
“Danny came in in a situation where he had to get ready in the spur of the moment and came up with a big save,” Bageanis said. “That would have been a goal.”
The Mustangs attacked relentless following Martinez’s big stop but could not score again. But it was the second time in less than 24 hours they rallied from a 1-0 deficit to avert defeat.
Morton gave up a goal to Benet with 14:30 left on Friday night, but Max Aquino tied it 1:02 later and Alvarez scored with 9:33 to go for a 2-1 win.
“We had plenty of chances (Saturday),” Bageanis said. “We were kind of dominating in there for about a 10-minute stretch and that’s what we talked about after the game - we’ve got to put those away.
“Their goalie made a couple good reaction saves and there were a couple defenders in the right place at the right time. So you’ve got to give them credit.”