The ongoing maturation of the Plainfield High School boys soccer team continued Saturday morning in a 3-0 victory over Franklin in non-conference play.
Since early last season, Cardinals coach Ronald Umana has taken his club from the depths of 4-16 in 2011, to a much-improved 10-5-4 in 2012, and now they’re off to a fast start in 2013 at 3-0-1.
After playing Summit to a 1-1 tie Wednesday, Plainfield bounced back quickly with three first-half goals en route to cruising the rest of the way home.
“The boys are coming along well. I feel like they’re improving every game,” Umana said. “They’re still a lot of mistakes we’re making, and I told them not to be focused on our opponents so much. Let’s be focused on what we’re doing.”
Umana’s bunch applied heavy pressure in their attacking third for the game’s duration, seemingly in desperate search of a fourth goal, at least. At times their ball movement was a bit chaotic though, something their coach has paid close attention to.
“I think if we can play a little smarter and mentally be quicker, as the games go by we’re going to improve even more,” Umana said.
Cards’ front-line trio of Miguel Hernandez, Oliver Korngor and Kelvin Rivera kept the Warriors on their heels by utilizing their tremendous collective speed and agility.
Frankly, Plainfield’s speed is a weapon.
A different one of the aforementioned three seems to step up each game, and Saturday was Hernandez’s turn, as he accounted for two of his team’s three goals.
“We’re fast. It’s hard to cover us,” Hernandez said. “We have a lot of control of the ball, good passing and good chemistry.”
In the 22nd minute, William Guzman served a precise through ball from the 30-yard line, and Hernandez was able to flick the ball over the approaching goalkeeper (Joe Thigpen).
Then with just over seven minutes to play in the first half, Hernandez was right on the spot. Rivera’s blast from inside the 18-yard box caromed off Thigpen and right to Hernandez, as if his instincts positioned him in exactly the spot where he could blast the rebound home for a 2-0 advantage.
“I always come out looking to score,” Hernandez said. “I watch and move to see the ball well, and try to do my best to get in the best position possible.”
Korngor wouldn’t go without having a say. He found the upper ’90 on a beautifully directed kick from just inside the 18-yard box roughly two minutes later.
For the game, Plainfield out shot Franklin (0-4) 17-3, including 7-0 after halftime, and the Cardinals defense wouldn’t surrender a single quality scoring opportunity in the match.
Through four games, Plainfield has surrendered only three goals. Ironically, defense was an area of concern for Umana coming into the season.
“I think the main reason we’ve been successful on defense is my stopper Kevin Arias,” Umana explained.
Arias, who was the Cards’ keeper last season, has moved to the field and excelled in the early going.
“He’s just been unbelievable, and something I really did not expect,” said Umana. “He wanted a shot, and he’s taken it and become a really vital part. He’s very smart. He always is the right position. He tips the ball here, tips it there, and he’s been a big part of the defense.”
Umana wouldn’t fall short of crediting his other two defenders Axel Flores and Roni Menjivar.
Thigpen, who had to leave the game for several minutes midway through the second half after colliding in the air with Hernandez, would return and finished with eight saves.
GOALS: P – Hernandez (2), Korngor. ASSISTS: P – Guzman, Rivera. SAVES: P – Barron 3; F – Thigpen 6.