Written by Dennis Mahoney.
At 6-foot 1, Gus Fleps isn’t always the biggest player on the soccer pitch.
But most of the time the Evanston senior plays bigger than the competition.
Fleps scored twice on head balls as the Wildkits improved to 4-0 on the season with a 2-0 victory over Lake Forest Academy in the first round of the Evanston Invitational tournament at Lazier Field.
Fleps chalked up just the second multi-goal game of his career, even though he led the squad in scoring as a junior. He was in the right place at the right time twice Tuesday night, and maybe now head coach Franz Calixte will let him attempt a penalty kick some day.
Fleps wasn’t one of the five players chosen to participate in a bonus round of penalty kicks for ETHS. Under tournament rules, participating teams can earn extra points in the tourney standings based on a round of penalty kicks held after every game in the round-robin affair that also includes Mather and Payton Prep of the Chicago Public League.
“He’s like Kiel Mosely, a player we had who even when the ball was on the ground, we told him to use his head,” Calixte kidded. “He’s no good with his feet!”
“I’m not worried about the PKs. I know I’ll get a chance later in the tournament because everyone’s going to get a shot at it,” Fleps said. “I do usually score at least half of my goals on headers. Tonight I got great passes from my teammates to put me in good places to score from.
“I wasn’t always big --- I’m a late bloomer --- but once I got some size, I really worked hard on my jumping and on getting stronger legs. Now I like to get up in the air and go hard to the ball. I’ve always liked the rough aspect of that and being physical. For the most part on those head balls, it just comes down to the will and desire to go get the ball.”
Fleps notched a pair of goals following restarts in the second half. In the 64th minute, he converted a pass from Aaron Stone on a free kick from the 17 yard line. Ten minutes later, after originally just missing on another Stone free kick, he pushed the ball into the back of the net after teammate Mark Roth kept the bouncing ball alive with his head.
On the second goal, Fleps stayed near the left corner of the goal and was rewarded when the ball bounced back his way.
“After I missed, I backed off the goal a little,” he said. “I knew Mark would get it to me because I knew he was aware of where I was. I just flicked it in and it went in off the upright.”
Evanston dominated the time of possession leading up to Fleps’ first goal, outshooting the Caxys 22-2 overall. Sophomore goalie Adam Masters racked up his second straight shutout, needing only one save on a blistering attempt by LFA’s Florian Jeschenko midway through the first half.
Masters was also credited with a save during the PK shootout part of the game, won by Evanston 5-4.
Calixte was more than pleased about his team’s performance in general --- and Fleps’ play in particular.
“We displayed some better possession tonight, although I wish we could have scored a little sooner,” said the ETHS coach. “Lake Forest is a young team and we were able to get them early in the season.
“We haven’t had an aerial specialist like Gust since Kiel Mosely. He can be a dominant player up there. He wants to get up and win every ball. He has the will to do it, and he loves it. He has no fear in the air, and that just comes natural for him.”
Evanston hosts Mather at 7 p.m. Friday, and plays Payton Prep at noon on Saturday to conclude the round-robin event.