It was a lengthy process for Mike Palermo to get Matthew Martinez on his boys soccer team.
The Blue Springs sophomore midfielder was a transfer from Lincoln Prep missed the team’s first four to five games, according to Palermo.
“He wasn’t eligible to play with us yet,” Palermo said. “The paperwork hadn’t come in from the other school. It had to go to (the Missouri State High School Activities Association) board to make sure it would transfer right. It took about four to five games before we got him. He’s only played about six to seven games now.”
Now, Martinez is a big part of the regurence of a Blue Springs program that had a total of four wins in the three years prior to 2018. On Wednesday, Martinez helped the Wildcats improve to 7-9 overall after making the go-ahead goal in the 71st minute in a 2-1 victory over Grain Valley at Moody Murry Memorial Stadium.
Three quick passes from Blue Springs led to Christian VanMeter sending a cross to Martinez, who lobbed a shot with his left foot and it went over the head of Grain Valley goalkeeper Bryant Madden to make it 2-1.
Even after missing the first few games, Martinez already is second on the team with six goals.
“He was a little flat in the first half, but he turned it around in the second half,” Palermo said. “I think he decided he was going to kind of carry the team. He was penetrating and setting guys up for some nice balls.
“He hit it with his left foot but he’s right-footed. He can hit it with both feet. He drilled that thing right in the corner.”
For Martinez, it was about taking his father’s advice.
“Every game, my dad is telling me to just shoot when I have the opportunity,” Martinez said. “I found it on my left, had a short window, took the shot and it paid off.”
Grain Valley coach Tyler Nichol said he was impressed with the shot.
“That was a really good shot,” Nichol said. “Bryant didn’t have a chance to save that one.”
The goal happened during the second half in which Blue Springs dominated possession and had a 6-0 edge in shots on goal. Their success in possessing the ball was partly due to Grain Valley commiting eight or more players to their own end of the field.
“(Nichol) is a great coach and he had his guys well organized,” Palermo said. “They play great defense and they were forcing us out wide. We couldn’t penetrate and get shots off.
“We talked about it at halftime. We knew they were going to sit back a little bit. They had one forward up. And they had eight to nine guys behind the ball. We knew going to the middle wasn’t an option. It was too narrow. We spread them out a little bit and we kind of did. We were able to find the ball back in and got the center backs to stretch. And that opened up space in between.”
The Wildcats also controlled possession for the most part in the first half. They got their first goal off a 35-yard rainbow off the foot of junior defender Jesse Haynie. The shot went over the outstretched hands of Madden and into the goal for a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
Grain Valley tied it with 1:30 left in the first half when junior midfielder Jack Knust was fouled inside the 18-yard box. He proceeded to boot a well-placed ball on a penalty just inside the right post to tie it.
“We gave up a silly goal in the first half that I don’t even think their kid was shooting,” said Nichol, whose team fell to 7-5-2. “It happens sometimes and our goalkeeper was off his line. They killed us and outplayed us in the second half. They deserved it.
“We battled, but we’ve obviously had better days.”
For Blue Springs, its better days are in 2018.
“Every day we come into practice wanting to get better every day,” Martinez noted as a reason for the team having a respectable record. “We just want to get more wins. We are working as hard as we can and listening to our great coaches and staff. We’ll see where it takes us.”