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New varsity player helps spark Falcons past Patriots

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

Van Horn senior forward Yovani Morales got a chance to play his first varsity soccer game last week in a 2-1 loss to St. Michael the Archangel Catholic.

He made the most of it according to Falcons coach Jesus Rodgiuez, and he’s been an important part of the team ever since.

Morales, who moved up from the junior varsity team squad, scored the Falcons’ first goal in a 2-0 home win over crosstown rival Truman Thursday night.

“He’s definitely a great addition,” Rodriguez said of Morales. “He came here from the Truman yellow program. He never played for Truman because of a language barrier, I don’t know… But he came to us and I already knew him because I taught him in class.

“I asked him if he played soccer and he said yeah. So he came to try out right when school started so I had him go to JV. Then after a week Coach (Craig) Addison said he was really good. He’s quick and he’s fast. I tried him out against St. Michael, and he was demolishing them. He’s good at keeping possession and beating people down the line.”

Morales scored his first varsity goal in the 23rd minute when he received a pass from David Arrenado deep in the 18-yard box and hit a bouncing ball with his shoulder into the net for the 1-0 advantage.

“I am happy because I scored my first varsity goal,” Morales said.

And he was a part of Van Horn (9-2) dominating possession throughout as it outshot Truman 13-7. The Falcons consistently stole the ball from Patriot ball handlers and launched a flurry of counterattacks.

Maintaining possession has been something that the Falcons have struggled with at times this season, but some fans may not know it after watching Thursday’s game.

“We worked on it in practice,” Rodriguez said of his team possessing the ball. “I alternate between having space and reducing the space and increasing our possessions. Sometimes I have them go eight (vs.) eight and they have to figure out how to make quick combinations.

“Sometimes I only have them pass it two or three times so they can speed up their play. Then I open up the field and they are like boom, boom, boom, boom. The guys in the middle are getting more involved, too.”

Junior midfielder Kobe Otano scored the Falcons’ other goal in the second half. He booted a shot from about 35 yards out, near the left sideline, and the ball bounced off the right post and went in.

“Kobe hadn’t scored in a while,” Rodriguez said. “The last goal was against Blue Springs South in the semifinals (of the Raytown South Tournament). It was good to see him score.”

Added Otano: “I saw (Truman goalkeeper Francisco Bonilla) way outside the box. I looked up for a quick second and shot it to the far post. I was kind of surprised he didn’t save it.”

Van Horn goalkeeper Cooper Sumpter earned the shutout and had four saves, including a diving stop late in the second half.

Truman head coach Manny Tovar said his team played well and executed the game plan, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.

“We had someone follow (Van Horn all-state senior forward Edison Rios) most of the time and that kind of took him out of it,” said Tovar, whose team fell to 1-5. “We didn’t go more direct until they scored their second goal.

“These past few games, we have actually done really well. Both of their goals were our mistakes. We did what we wanted to do, but we just kind of got unlucky.”