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Van Horn's Rios named to All-American watch list

By Michael Smith
The Examiner
Van Horn senior forward Edison Rios has been named to the High School All-America watch list. He is just one of 16 Missouri players named to the list.

The Van Horn boys soccer team has become one of the premier soccer teams in Missouri, and has been gaining more recognition in recent years.

In 2018, the Falcons earned their first Class 3 state final four berth in program history and in 2017, they finished undefeated in the regular season for the first time. From 2016 to 2019 Van Horn has a combined record of 90-14-1 under head coach Jesus Rodriguez.

Last week, the team added another first – senior forward Edison Rios became the first Falcons player to make the High School All-American watch list after his second all-state season in which he scored 45 goals last year.

Rios was surprised by the honor, which is put out by highschoolsoccerallamerican.com, and hopes the team success comes along with a possible All-America caliber season in 2020.

“Me and brother (Julio Rios) were talking about how we want to have a good season this year,” Edison Rios said. “When Coach called me (to let me know about making the watch list), my brother was by my side. I told him how happy I was to make the All-American list. I was excited. Soccer is a big part of my life and no one else has done that here in my three years of high school.

The senior made a powerful 1-2 punch last season with fellow all-state selection and recent graduate Angel DeAvila, who was a well-balanced midfielder adept at scoring, playing defense and getting the ball to his teammates. A lot of those feeds went to Rios, who often used his exceptional speed to blow by the back line and score breakaway goals.

In his first three years, Rios used a direct approach to scoring, often moving in a straight line when he received the ball, just trying to outrun defenders. Many times that strategy was successful, but other times it led to missed opportunities. There were some times when the speedy senior just missed punching the ball in the back of the net or had his shot stuffed by a goalkeeper who came off his line to challenge him at the top of the box.

There were times when he struggled to take on a back line defender or a goal in one-on-one situations. This year Rios plans on changing that. Rodriguez has worked with him on his lateral movement and hopes to help him use his agility to create more angles to shoot the ball and make it harder for the opponent to defend him.

“He was pretty one-dimensional and just running fast,” Rodriguez said. “He was still able to score, which is great, but he struggled one versus one. We have been working a lot with him on his agility and his right foot. He’s getting a lot more agile. If he stays healthy, eats well and keeps his fitness level up, he can do some big damage.

“If his path is at an angle toward the 10 (yard line), we want him to cut back and take that guy on. That’s one thing he didn’t have before.”

With those improvements comes increased expectations, and Rios has raised the bar for himself even with the Falcons playing fewer regular season games than last year.

“I want to score 50 goals or more,” Rios said. “I am working on my skills. I want to be fast and skilled.”

And if he can continue to show his advanced talent level this season, more Division I colleges could look his way, Rodriguez said. Actually, there already is one that is interested in recruiting him.

“This year, UMKC showed a lot of interest,” Rodriguez said. “The UMKC coach showed interest in Edison and Angel. It was awesome that he is getting that kind of look.”