Van Horn boys soccer coach Jesus Rodriguez admits to being superstitious.
So when his all-state forward Edison Rios played in his new cleats for the first time last week in the Pembroke Hill Tournament, it caused him to struggle.
In wins over Pembroke Hill and St. Michael the Archangel Catholic, Rios had a bevy of opportunities on breakaways, often being one-on-one with the opponent’s goalkeeper. In those games, he was snakebitten, as he had several shots go just wide of the goal or had them blocked by a recovering defender or the goalkeeper.
Rios finally broke his funk when he notched a hat trick in a 8-0 win over Ewing Marion Kauffman Charter in the last game of the tournament. Tuesday, he continued the hot streak and notched another hat trick in a 7-0 win over Oak Grove in its pool play opener in the Kansas City Cup tournament.
“I was getting too frustrated,” Rios said of his two games against Pembroke Hill and St. Michael. “My teammates helped me get better and better and finish the goals. I just listened and am scoring those goals now.”
Rodriguez said he was relieved to see Rios break the spell.
“He had some quality finishes today,” Rodriguez said. “He’s working hard. His new cleats are paying off now. They are molded.”
Rios scored his first goal on a through ball from Julio Rios. He got the ball deep in the box and punched a shot inside the left post for a 2-0 lead midway through the first half. In the 23rd minute, he received a cross from sophomore midfielder Jesus Lopez and drilled a shot from the far left side of the field, placing it perfectly inside the far post to make it 3-0.
“That’s a difficult shot,” Rodriguez said of his second goal. “That’s something we’ve struggled with because he always likes to run back and shoot it over the net. This time he set himself up, turned his hips and hit it back post.”
Added Rios: “If I don’t start making those more, my coach is going to get mad at me.”
He completed the hat trick on a pass from sophomore midfielder Jorge Venegas late in the first half.
Angel DeAvila scored a pair of goals, Juan Rangel scored on a rebound off Oak Grove goalkeeper Hagan Dyer, and Carson Sumpter scored on a penalty kick with 10.6 seconds left.
Van Horn (6-1) has the majority of its players back from injury after it was missing five players in its season opener against Blue Springs. Players like Joxel Figueroa, Juan Rangel and Julio Rios have improved their fitness since coming back from injury, Rodriguez said.
“Julio was struggling with fitness earlier in the season, but he’s looked good lately,” Rodriguez said. “His touches and shots were on target. Joxel was actually fit. He wanted to run around and get touches.
“Juan looked phenomenal. He was beating some guys down the wing.”
The Falcons have put the season opening loss to Blue Springs behind them as they extended their winning streak to six games. DeAvila said his team is starting to get back to the level it was last year when it made the Class 3 state final four.
“Honestly, we’re reaching that point or we’re going to exceed it pretty soon,” DeAvila said. “We only lost three seniors last year. We had some big losses with Brian (Parra), Raynalso (Jean-Pierre) and Jason (Smith), but as the freshmen from last year come up as lower classmen, they start changing their mentality. They know they are in high school now and they are going to have to train hard and work to be on this team.”