by Michael Smith
It was a situation head coach Brett Lewis had not seen before when playing Van Horn.
The Grain Valley boys soccer coach said he was used to his team having to commit most of his players on defense against the Falcons in the past, but Tuesday’s game at home was different.
His Eagles controlled possession for most of the game, but his team could not find the back of the net against a Van Horn team that committed most of its players to the defensive third of the field in a 1-0 loss in non-conference action.
Despite the loss, Lewis was able to find a big positive.
“They sat in and that is honestly a positive note for us because I don’t think there is a time where we played Van Horn where they are the team sitting in and we are the team attacking,” Lewis said. “That shows that we have the right mentality and we dominated most of that game and a lot more than they probably would like to admit."
“They put a lot of bodies in front of the goal so it was tough to get shots off. I am proud of the way the guys responded even when things weren’t going our way.”
The Eagles outshot Van Horn 11-5 (5-2) on goal but had trouble getting clean shots off against a wall of Falcon defenders throughout.
To make things tougher, Grain Valley junior defender Isaiah Johnson got his second yellow card of the game with 16 minutes left in the game, which resulted in a red card and an automatic ejection.
That forced the Eagles to play a man down for the rest of the game. But even then, Grain Valley was able to control possession.
“The ball was still on their part of the field the majority of the time,” Lewis said. “I am proud of the grit they showed. That’s going to help in the second half of the season and in the postseason psychologically. We were a man down against a very good Van Horn team that went to a final four last year."
“We can play with these guys and we can beat them if we can put in a couple of opportunities.”
It helped Van Horn’s cause to play a defense-heavy scheme due to an early goal from senior midfielder Enil Arteaga. Sophomore forward Diego Escutia fed a short cross to him and he drilled a shot into the net near the top of the penalty box early in the first half for the only goal of the game.
“They had two shots on goal the whole game,” Lewis said. “They played it out to the right, then played it into their good player in the middle. It was a layoff to him and he hit a great shot. My goalie didn’t see it. It was kind of frustrating. We just had to find their one dangerous player and we didn’t find him quick enough.”
The Eagles fell to 2-2 after the loss.
The Grain Valley boys soccer team breaks down the post game huddle following a 1-0 loss to Van Horn in non-conference action. Photo credit: Michael Smith