Loyola's defense stymies Palatine in playoff victory

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Loyola's defense stymies Palatine in playoff victory

By Matt Harness
Season Pass

Instead of talking up his own skills, Cody Sullivan ceded almost all of the credit Saturday for his career-high three interceptions to his coaches.

Loyolas senior linebacker caught as many passes from Ethan Olles as Alex Nawrot, the Palatine quarterbacks third-leading receiver.

Sullivans second pick preceded Julius Holleys 2-yard touchdown run with 2:58 to go before the break, and the No. 5-ranked Ramblers never looked back in their 19-7 win over the seventh-ranked Pirates in the Class 8A quarterfinals.

I absolutely saw it all on film, Sullivan said. The coaches put us in the right spots. They told us where to be and good things happened.

Loyola (11-1) won for the 10th time in a row and is in the state semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. The Ramblers will play No. 8 Glenbard North at home Saturday for the second year in a row in the semifinals.

This feels good, but we still have things to work for, Sullivan said. Anything less that a state championship is not what we want this year.

Danny Rafferty picked off a pass on the first play of the game, and sophomore Mike Kurzydlowski kicked a 25-yard field for a lead Loyola never surrendered.

The Ramblers didnt allow a touchdown on defense for the third time in five games. Palatines points came on Cam Kuksas 47-yard punt return early in the third quarter that left the score 10-7 in favor of Loyola.

But the Ramblers responded by piecing together their best series of the game, a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Peter Pujals 21-yard scoring strike to Luke Ford to up the teams advantage to 16-7 with 7:16 left in the third quarter.

Even still, the senior quarterback deflected the applause.

The defense won that game for us, said Pujals, who finished 13-for-23 for 158 yards and didnt turn over the ball.

Palatine (10-2) lost for the first time since the opening week. The Pirates also ended their 2010 season in the quarterfinals with a loss to Loyola.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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