Saving grace: Sumpter's play in goal helps Falcons advance to quarterfinals
When you’re part of a high-flying, explosive offensive team like the Van Horn Falcons it can be easy for a goalkeeper to be overlooked.
That might have been the case in some games this season, but not in a nail-biting 2-0 Class 3 soccer sectional win over Harrisonville Saturday night at William Chrisman High School’s Norman James Field, where Cooper Sumpter stood in the spotlight making dramatic save after dramatic save.
“We don’t win tonight without Cooper in goal,” said the Falcons All-American senior forward Edison Rios, who gave his teammate some breathing room with the second goal of the night against the Wildcats.
Enil Arteaga scored the first Van Horn, as he drove Harrisonville goalie Travis Eddelman, who also enjoyed a solid night in the net, past the plane of the goal in the 49th minute.
“At first, I didn’t know if it was a goal or not,” Arteaga said, “but it broke the plane. Their goalie must have been back in the net when he punched it out.”
Falcons coach Jesus Rodriguez said he had the perfect angle from the sidelines to see that it was a goal and a 1-0 lead for his team.
Just three minutes later Rios showed the vocal crowd why he is an All-American as he took a ball in front of the net, turned and hit a screamer past Eddelman for the two-goal lead.
“That goal was for Cooper and my teammates,” said Rios, who scored the game-winning goal in the 1-0 double-overtime win over St. Michael the Archangel in the district championship earlier in the week. “That is two shutouts and we did not want this game to go into overtime.
“He has been so good in goal. The 1-0 lead was great, we all knew he could get another shutout, but 2-0 gives him a little breathing room back there.”
Sumpter made four circus stops in the first half and came far out of the net to challenge a charging Wildcat, knocking the ball away and saving what appeared to be a likely goal.
“They are an aggressive team, and when you play an aggressive team, you have to be aggressive in the net,” Sumpter said. “This was just a great soccer game, just like all our games have been this season.
“We’ve won 3-2 in overtime (against Raytown South in the district semifinal), 1-0 (against the Guardians) and 2-0 tonight. Our first goal tonight was so big. You can breathe a little bit easier and not feel quite so much pressure with a lead.
“But Edison’s goal was big, too, because when you’re winning 2-0, with these guys backing me up, you just feel like you are going to win. And we did.”
The 20-4 Falcons now face Pembroke Hill (11-6), which they beat 3-2 in the regular season. in a state quarterfinal matchup at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Swope Soccer Village.
“That seems like such a long time ago,” Rodriguez said. “We had a 3-0 lead in that game, and I put in some reserve players and Pembroke Hill got a penalty kick, and then scored again and we had to hold on for the win.
“It should be another great night of soccer.”