Boys soccer team turns poor start into great season

After eight games without a win, the varsity has gone 7-0-1 to threaten for a district title


The Knights celebrate Marcel Lopez-Reed’s goal, which helped them earn a 2-2 draw Tuesday night at House Park. The result extended the varsity’s undefeated streak to eight games. Photo by Isaias Cruz.

The following story is about the best midseason turnaround I have ever seen in 17 years of watching sports.

The first half of McCallum’s boys soccer season went about as poorly as it could have. The lowest point of it all came on Jan. 27, at House Park, halftime against Austin High. Not only did the Knights trail, 2-0, to the Maroons, but they also knew they would have to play the next 40 minutes with only 10 players on the field after an entire half season of frustration had taken its toll for senior Gerohan Irias, who was given a red card in the first half for arguing with an official. Despite being shorthanded, the Knights fought hard in the second half, at one point cutting the lead to 2-1 before ultimately falling 3-1. The loss to Austin High meant the Knights had gone their first seven games without a single win.

Junior Camilo Auyero sits on the bench during halftime of McCallum’s 3-1 loss against Austin High on Jan 27 at House Park. The game against Austin High marked the Knights’ lowest point in the season as it put them at 0-5-2 for the year. Photo by Joseph Cardenas.
Gerohan Irias joins Marcel Lopez-Reed, Jerry Howard and Adrian Martinez in celebrating one of his three goals as McCallum beat Austin High in the rematch on Feb. 20. The win was the team’s fifth in a string of seven straight wins. Photo by Isaias Cruz.


It wasn’t like the Knights were getting beaten into the ground. Of those first seven games, the team only lost one by more than two scores. Of those seven games, the Knights tied two, meaning one more goal scored or one more goal saved in either game would have given the team something in the win column. Everyone always says the first win is always the toughest one to get, and that was definitely true for the Knights.

Four days later, the Knights looked set on getting that first win of the year against Travis, holding a 3-1 lead late in the second half. Then, the Knights allowed two goals to the Rebels, and had to settle for a draw. At school the next day, you could hear jokes about how the soccer team blew a 3-1 lead, just like the Golden State Warriors did to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The biggest difference between the McCallum boys soccer team and the Warriors: the Warriors had gone 73-9 that season, while the Knights, through their first eight games, had lost five, tied three and had yet to win a single game on the year.

Then, the breakthrough came. Just three days after having the disappointment of letting the Travis game slip away from their hands, the Knights earned their first win of the season, defeating Crockett 2-1, off of a game-winning goal by junior Adrian Martinez. Finally, a close game had gone the Knights’ way.

Sometimes in sports all you need is one good win to start piecing a season back together.

“At the beginning of the year, we were really negative,” said Irias, who had the red card earlier in the season against Austin High. “And then we won our first game against Crockett and then after that first game that we won, it was all positivity and the negativity was gone from everybody.”

Sure, the 1 in the win column still looked small compared to the 5 in the loss column after the Crockett win. But a 1 looks a lot better than a 0. I believe that is the biggest one-game change in sports, going from zero wins to one. One means you have won, and you know you can do it again, while a zero leaves even the potential for success in question. We all know that one loss can sometimes end your season, like with the past McCallum football season, but sometimes all it takes is one win to change a season for the better, too.

One week later McCallum beat Lanier 3-1. Then four days later, they beat Reagan 6-2 for their third win in a row. Two days later, McCallum took down LBJ 1-0.

Standing in the Knights’ way of their fifth straight win was a rematch against the first place team in the district, Austin High. Not only did the team get revenge for their previous loss with a 3-0 win, but Irias got his personal revenge, too by scoring all three McCallum goals for a hat trick against the same team he was playing when he got his red card less than a month earlier.

Next up was Travis, who tied the McCallum with two late goals in their previous meeting. This time, the Knights held onto a 1-0 lead, thanks in part to a late penalty kick save by senior goalkeeper Eric LaWare. Everything that went wrong in the first half of the season started going right for the Knights in the second half.

Then the Knights beat Crockett 2-1, clinching a playoff berth that seemed highly unlikely just a month before. After McCallum’s first eight games, they were winless at 0-5-3. After the next seven, they were 7-5-3 and in second place in the district. I kind of doubt any other team in sports history can top that for a turnaround.

So what caused this change of fortune? Irias believes it was caused by better chemistry within the team.

“I feel like we’ve grown with each other as a team,” Irias said. “We’ve gotten better in practices, working harder. Things like that.”

Unfortunately, the Knights seven-game win streak came to an end last night with a 2-2 tie against Lanier, the third-place district team.

McCallum plays Reagan on Friday, the last regular-season game of the year with a chance to wrap up second place in the district with a win or tie, and a shot at tying Austin High for first place in the standings with a win and an Austin High loss to Travis.

“We’re all hyped up,  but we’re also just concentrating on winning the next game and not getting too ahead of ourselves,” junior Camilo Auyero said. “We want to win as many games as possible, so we just look to the next game, win that game, and then the next game, win that game, that’s what we’re looking at.”

I’d say the one-game-at-a-time strategy is working out pretty well for the Knights lately.