by Todd Thomas, Staff Writer
Photo credits: Truman Athletics Department
The Truman men’s soccer season recently ended with a first-round playoff loss, but it’s really just the beginning because the Falcons have a new head coach and a committed core of players who plan on bringing some quality soccer to Truman next year and beyond.
The Falcons began the 2015 season by winning their first two scrimmages and the home-opener at Kennedy King over Malcolm X College 5-2. After that streak the season got a little tougher, and the Falcons suffered a few losses, including a 10-1 loss to Moraine Valley.
“Losing by a score of 10-1 is not a good feeling, but it didn’t affect us that much because that was our first defeat,” said first-year head coach Archibald Wright. “But it was a wake-up call that showed them the level we need to get to get deep in the playoffs.”
The setbacks were also taken in stride by the Falcon players, who express a passion for the game of soccer that was developed in their home countries where soccer takes on a broader meaning, beyond just an athletic endeavor.
“Soccer is more of a lifestyle than just a sport,” said freshman forward Edgar Oropeza. “It’s more than just kicking a ball. You have to be mentally focused and prepared for any situation. It’s like life in a way — it’s unpredictable, but you still have to be prepared for it.”
“As a kid you grow up playing soccer and watching soccer,” he added. “So it becomes part of your life.”
Another aspect of the sport that doesn’t show up in the stats is the mental and physical release that playing the sport provides.
“Playing soccer is a stress reliever,” Oropeza said. “Once you get on the field you forget everything that’s going on around you — you just focus on what you can make out of that moment on the field. Nothing in the future or the past matters. Once the game is over you feel like a new person — you’ve sweated out everything.”
The international draw of the sport can also help teammates from different backgrounds find they have something in common, and the Falcons have players from eleven different countries, including Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Togo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Iraq, and the U.S.A.
“It helps bring people together because it’s a sport that’s played by people all over the world,” said freshman midfielder Norberto Flores. “You don’t have to relate much to the person, but if you love the sport it joins people together.”
Truman College is renowned for its cultural diversity, and the soccer team carries on this tradition, said athletic director Alison Guengerich.
“Our men’s soccer team most certainly reflects the diversity of the Truman College student body,” she added. “Diversity enhances our campus culture and enriches the educational experience both inside and outside the classroom. and I am proud that our men’s soccer program embodies and embraces this global perspective.”
One of the challenges the Falcons faced this season was the lack of preparation before the season started. Coach Wright took over the program later than he would have liked, leaving him with an abbreviated preseason regimen.
Consequently the regular season was a little too much like the preseason, as they struggled to get on track, and with only nine games on the schedule it was that much harder to peak at the right time.
“We all started late and didn’t really have a preseason, so the regular season was like the preseason,” Oropeza said. “But it came together in the last game. In that game we saw the best moments of every player come out.”
Anthony Reyes, a sophomore defender, agrees that the 4-3 playoff defeat was actually a high point of the season.
“In the playoff game we had a strong game plan, and we were mentally prepared,” he said. “It was do or die, and nobody gave up. Everybody was communicating, and everybody played well. We came back from a deficit of 2-0 and lost by one goal. That was our proudest moment as a team It was a good vibe even though we lost.”
Win or lose, not many Truman students witnessed the team in action. The team played two games at Kennedy King as home field and the rest on the road, and so there wasn’t much of a fan base. That could change next year when they begin playing at Foster and Montrose soccer fields.
With more preparation, more training and more players, 2016 holds a lot of promise for the Falcons, said coach Wright: “Next season we should have a squad that can play multiple games a week, and it’s not going to faze us because we have the talent and the physical training.”
Looking forward to next year’s campaign, Oropeza said “as a player you always want to win more games. The season wasn’t a disappointment — it was a learning process, and we can establish ourselves next season.”
And after going 3-6 this year they are ready to get that winning feeling. “The best feeling is winning the game,” said sophomore forward Christian Pacheco.”You see the work you put in practice pays off when you win. When you win it motivates you to keep going, to keep fighting, to keep giving it the best you can.”