With the expectations as high as they have ever been for the Van Horn soccer program, head coach Jesus Rodriguez has two consistent messages he preaches to his team – to stay humble and to play hard no matter the opponent.
The Falcons did both of those things on Wednesday as they easily dispatched a struggling Ruskin team 10-0 in pool play of the Kansas City Cup tournament.
The Falcons have experienced plenty of early season success, starting the season 7-0 and being ranked No. 10 in the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association polls, and it appeared they didn’t let up against the Eagles.
Van Horn scored six goals in the first half and four in the second to end the game in the 47th minute by mercy rule.
“I told our guys to not let it get in their heads that we’re ranked and undefeated,” Rodriguez said. “We just have to go out there and execute the game plan. If you start slacking off, not running hard, not tackling hard then you get accustomed to that. Then you play a tougher team and you’re asleep. We want to pressure hard like we’re playing the No. 1 team.
“We played hard today, but we just have to work on our finishing. We had some one-on-ones with the keeper that should have been goals. We have to be able to bury those in.”
Two of the guys leading the charge was sophomore midfielder Juan Rangel and Reynalso Jean-Pierre, a 15-year-old junior midfielder. Both are taking on bigger roles this year as starters.
Rangel put on 15 pounds over the summer and it’s helped him handle contact, which has led to a higher volume of shots. He notched a hat trick against Ruskin and two of his goals were assisted by Jean-Pierre.
“He’s got quicker feet and he’s a lot faster than last year,” Rodriguez said of Rangel. “The weight training has helped him a lot.”
He received a long pass and was able to beat Ruskin goalie Naguib Nassir on a challenge for a 5-0 edge late in the first. Early in the second, he made a heads-up play when a shot from Favian Valenzuela ricocheted off the body of a diving Nassir and he was able to corral the rebound and put it into an empty net for the Falcons’ eighth score. Shortly afterward, Jean-Pierre lobbed the ball to a streaking Rangel, who juked the goalkeeper on a challenge and put it in an empty net.
After the game, Rangel raved about the passing from Jean-Pierre, who had four assists.
“Oh man, don’t get me started on Rey,” Rangel said. “His passes … he’s got eyes in the back of his head and he’s always seeing when we’re open. He did really great.”
Added Jean-Pierre: “When I send them a through ball, I know they are going to score it. I believe in them.”
The junior’s improvement came because of increased confidence, Rodriguez said. He joined the team when he was just 13 years old as a freshman and he began starting at the tail end of the 2016 season because of a slew of injuries. Now, he’s a starter and a key factor on a loaded Falcons squad.
“He is just 15 years old as a junior and some freshmen are 15 years old,” Rodriguez said. “Now that he’s a little more grown, he’s gaining more speed and soccer IQ. He knows how to find a gap to play someone open.”
Valenzuela had two goals; Luis Mejia had a goal and two assists; and Abraham Colin had a goal and one assist. Darrin Goin also added a goal and Erik Lopez had an assist.