For the better part of the Class 3 District 15 soccer final, Van Horn coach Jesus Rodriguez found little to like about the play of Edison Rios. The Falcons’ prolific forward, like the rest of his Falcon teammates, struggled to find the net against a packed-in William Chrisman defense.
“He didn’t play well for at least 65 minutes,” Rodriguez said. “The ball bounced off his leg, his shin, and then just in five minutes he changes the game.”
Rios finally broke free in those final five minutes, scoring two quick goals to seal a 3-0 victory for the Falcons Wednesday night at Chrisman. Van Horn (21-3) won a second consecutive district crown and continued its run back to the Class 3 state tournament.
That run didn’t really seem in jeopardy. William Chrisman (9-14), which lost to the Falcons 6-0 last month, managed only two shots the entire match.
But while Van Horn controlled play most of the match, Chrisman managed to frustrate the Falcons and keep it close with numbers in its penalty box. The Falcons got plenty of shots, but many of them were wild or smothered by Chrisman goalie Javier Merino.
“We knew they were going to pack it in,” Rodriguez said. “If they play us head-to-head we definitely have a little more speed and players that can possess the ball.”
Rios is normally one of those players, but he had little to show as Van Horn clung to a 1-0 lead. That was until he found space in the box to fire a shot inside the far post in the 70th minute. Two minutes later, he caught Merino off his line and knocked in a pass from Juan Rangel.
“They were doing nothing but defending,” said Rios, who recorded his team-high 44th and 45th goals. “We were trying to open up and find goals but they really made us work hard today.”
Even as Rios struggled, Van Horn still saw plenty of opportunities in the first half too, outshooting the Bears 15-1. It still took the Falcons until the 37th minute to get on the board when Diego Coronado put a rebound inside the near post.
“The last game was similar,” Rodriguez said. “They packed it in in the box, so they had a ton of bodies where that ball can hit. I told them it’s coming, so relax.”
Chrisman’s two shots both came on free kicks. The Bears came closest to scoring on the second one, a shot by Mariano Gonzalez pushed left from the semicircle in front of the box.
“Their offense is so explosive,” Chrisman coach John Straub said. “Our focus was if we gave up a shot, try to make it from distance. And we worked the last several practices on free kicks because we thought that was were we could score.”
Van Horn will next face Platte County in a sectional game Tuesday. Platte County (23-1) downed Smithville 2-0 in the Class 2 District 16 final.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to continue to work because we want to go back to St. Louis and the final four,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve still got quite a bit of stuff to do.”