'Heart and desire': Smith's hustle helps Indians edge Bears
Fort Osage boys soccer coach RaDel Hinckley admits that sophomore forward Lucca Smith isn’t the most technically sound player. But he makes up for it with other important intangibles.
“Lucca is just a hustler. He’s a hard worker,” Hinckley said. “He will go hard for everything every chance he gets. He just doesn’t want to lose and he doesn’t want to give up. That just comes from his heart and desire.”
That was on display Thursday against U.S. 24 rival William Chrisman. Smith scored two goals and helped set up another in a offensive-heavy 3-2 Suburban Middle Six home victory.
His performance allowed Fort Osage (4-6, 1-1 Middle Six) to already pass the number of wins that it had all last season, and Hinckley said Smith has really grown as a player since his freshman campaign. Last season, the sophomore had six goals. Through 10 games this year, he already has nine.
“He put a lot of time in and played hard in the offseason,” Hinckley said. “He’s really worked on his finishing. Last year, he was just a freshman and he was a little timid and our offense was a little stagnant last year.
“We have got more creative players this year – Brady Parsons and Brody Hendrix and Xander Shepherd there in the midfield. They are great creative players that give him opportunities.”
Chrisman first-year head coach Justin Schmidt said the game plan was for his team to take Smith out of the game, but the Bears were unsuccessful in doing that.
“He only had two goals on the stat sheet but earned a PK,” Schmidt said. “On the three goals, we didn’t take him away like we talked about before the game. He’s a really athletic kid; we just had a tough time stopping him.”
On his two goals, Smith was able to get two one-on-one opportunities against Chrisman goalkeeper Javier Ortiz-Merino and he converted.
“It was very hard to beat their defense,” Smith said. “I just had to take the opportunities when I had open shots.”
After a scoreless first half, Smith helped his team score its first goal when he had a breakaway opportunity and was fouled in the box by Ortiz-Merino, who came out to challenge him. That allowed Indians sophomore midfielder Angel Cornejo to drill a penalty kick inside the left post for a 1-0 edge in the 41st minute.
About 13 minutes later, Smith got behind the Chrisman line after receiving a rainbow pass from a teammate, and he bumped the ball off his chest to settle it before getting a touch inside the right post to extend the lead to 2-0.
Chrisman (5-5, 1-1) didn’t go away quietly, though. Sophomore forward Euliser Alonzo-Chilel scored two goals within three minutes of each other midway through the half. His first score came when sophomore midfielder Tyler Large sent a cross from the right side of the 18-yard box, and Alonzo-Chilel kicked the ball from mid-air into the back of the net.
His second goal tied it when a teammate drilled a shot from 30 yards out that Fort Osage goalkeeper Rhys Rippey made a diving save on. However, Alonzo-Chilel knocked in the rebound to tie it.
In the 60th minute, Smith put the Indians up for good when he beat Ortiz-Merino with a slick shot close to the goal that went inside the right post.
Chrisman created many chances to score in the final 10 minutes, but the Fort Osage defense was able to make clutch deflections and Rippey came up with some big saves to preserve the win.
“That was more stressful than I care to admit,” Rippey said of the final 10 minutes. “I was freaking out a little bit and my heart was pounding, especially when they got a cross inside the box.”
Added Schmitt: “We moved the ball well and got it out wide and had some chances inside the box; we just didn’t finish. That’s what happens when you can’t finish and you can’t stop their one player.”