By Colin Bado, TSB Staff
PLANO —Shortly after the final seconds of the clock ran down on the McKinney Lions’ 2-0 victory over Dallas Skyline in the teams’ UIL bi-district playoff round match Thursday night, Lions head coach Alan Pocock knew his players were playing their best soccer of the season.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Pocock. “Beating Allen and then the district
champions and hometown rival Boyd Broncos gave us a lot of momentum entering the playoffs.”
The Lions’ confidence permeated throughout John Clark Stadium in Plano as they went head to head with Dallas Skyline. Last season, the team was in the same stadium prepared to face Frisco Wakeland in the bi-district round. The Lions’ fortunes weren’t the same that night, falling to the Wolverines 1-0 to prematurely end their playoff run.
“Winning at John Clark Stadium is a big deal for us,” said Pocock. “A year ago we lost in the first round at the same stadium. It’s a good feeling coming back here and wining.”
McKinney High didn’t waste anytime against the Raiders. Within the first two minutes of the match, the Lions were allotted a direct free kick 30 yards from the Raiders’ goal. Lions midfielder Mikey Swim elected to take the kick and placed the ball effortlessly inside the 6-yard box, finding teammate Gerson Mendoza. Mendoza flicked the ball with his head and reached the back of the net putting the Lions up 1-0.
After the match, Pocock admired the team’s flawless execution of the team’s set plays.
“After 22 years of coaching, this team is one of the most coachable,” he said. “We discuss game plans, set plays and strategy and the players do what they’re suppose to do.”
McKinney was relentless with its offensive attacks. The Skyline defense struggled to keep up with the pace that the Lions offense established. Forward David Soto was the driving force behind the offense. In the 15th minute, Soto came close to putting the Lions up by two, but he pushed the ball wide left of the net.
Raiders forward Carlos DeLuna repeatedly tested the McKinney defense with his powerful shots through a number of direct kicks. From 25 yards beyond the McKinney goal, DeLuna struck the ball over the Lions wall and bent it around the defense, missing the frame by a few feet.
The significance of the Lions defense and two-goalkeeper system cannot be overlooked, according to Pocock.
“I know the two keeper system sounds crazy but it works for us,” said Pocock. “Rylan Whan and Quique Vicens are both talented goalkeepers, but we play the best when we switch them out at half.”
In the 27th minute, Swim sent the ball down the line into Raider territory finding teammate Dante Nunez. Nunez continued to work towards the goal and attracted the last Raider defender. Nunez crossed the ball to an open Soto. Soto was one on one with the keeper and took a shot at the goal. Goalkeeper Wilson Rivera managed to get a hand on the ball, but it wasn’t enough. The ball slowly rolled passed the goal line, putting the Lions up by two.
Before the end of the first half, Skyline’s frustration resulted in physical play. Raiders midfielder Jose Rodriguez received a yellow card in the 38th minute, sending him to the sidelines temporarily.
During the second half, the Raiders’ woes continued and defeat began to set in. The Lions continued to progress, but were unable to add another goal to their lead. Swim showed off his ball skill as he worked through the Raider defense, but his efforts came up empty handed.
In the 78th minute, Jose Rodriguez was issued his second yellow card, which translates to a soft red. He was sent off the pitch for good and Skyline was forced to finish the match with 10 players on the field.
Senior captain Mikey Swim had not seen the playoffs with the Lions since his freshman year. As a junior he suffered a broken back last April that kept him sidelined, but the captain said he is taking advantage of his opportunities this season.
“This year means a lot to me,” said Swim. “As a whole, we have great chemistry and work well as a team.”
McKinney will face Longview in the Area round match next week, with location and time TBD.