By Chris Parker
McDonald County boys soccer returns seven starters this year looking to improve on last season’s four-win campaign.
Head coach Nathan Haikey will look to Antonio Delacruz (senior defender), Francisco Blancas (senior forward), Alejandro Cejudo (senior defender) and Elias Bail (senior midfielder) will be looked to for leadership this year.
Haikey on Delacruz: “leads by example and makes great decisions with and without the ball.”
Haikey on Blancas: “sets the tone when it comes to his work rate.”
Haikey on Cejudo: “would run through a brick wall for his teammates.”
Haikey on Bail: “his creativity on the ball should allow us to get more shots on goal.”
Giovanni Gonzalez (sophomore), Jose Mendoza (junior), Richard Gasca (sophomore) will join Blancas on the attack at forward.
Bail will be joined by Aldo Sanchez (senior), Orlando Sebastian (senior), Cesar Diaz (senior), Tony Rubi (junior), and Oscar Mora (junior) in the midfield.
Cejudo and Delacruz will key the defense at defender along with Tucker Dill (senior), Hasler Lopez (junior), Yeison Lopez (sophomore) and Rony Lopez (senior).
Tomas Delacruz (junior) and Griffin Schutten (junior) are both in the mix at goalkeeper.
“Tomas Delacruz has been our first-choice keeper since his freshman season, but Griffin Schutten has really developed his game and will challenge for the spot this season,” Haikey said.
Haikey has been impressed overall by what his team has shown this summer.
“The entire group has been impressive during off-season,” Haikey said. “We have consistently had good numbers at training. They are an extremely coachable bunch of young men. It looks like we are going to end up with a good group of in-coming freshmen along with some sophomores who did not play last year and that is great for the junior varsity squad and the continued growth of the program.”
McDonald County has been building the last few years and the depth the Mustangs have created should pay off this year.
“I really think our depth will be our biggest strength this season,” Haikey said. “In years past we have had to depend on 12 to 13 players. This created some problems when we needed to make substitutions just due to the difference in ability. Coach Delatorre and I worked extremely hard the past few years to develop these guys both technically and tactically. Our depth is a direct result of this.”
McDonald County will lean on its defense while working to develop its offensive attack. The Mustangs return just four total goals from last season.
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“We must find a way to score goals consistently from multiple players, and play flawless defense as well as keep our focus and composure for the full 80 minutes,” Haikey said. “We have to do these things to be successful.”
McDonald County will host Cassville and Aurora for a jamboree on Aug. 23 before opening the regular season Aug. 30 –Sept. 3 at the Cassville Tournament.
“The expectation for the season is to challenge for the conference title and advance in the district tournament with a first round win this October,” Haikey said. “These guys are using the disappointment of last season as their motivation and they hope to have the best season in the program’s history.”