The Joplin soccer team could not have scripted a better performance in its invitational on Saturday at the JHS Sports Complex.
In a round-robin tournament, the Eagles collected 8-0 victories over McDonald County and Parsons to claim the tournament title. Joplin improves to 6-9 overall with the wins.
“We are glad that we grabbed our first shutouts of the season and handled our business today,” Eagles coach Josh Thompson said. “We are trying to set a tone because we don’t have any practices before our next two games, and we used every bit of time that we can.
“Basically, this prepared us for Monday and Tuesday as well, so we are trying to keep the momentum going.”
On Tuesday at Nixa, Joplin allowed two goals in the opening minutes after “coming out flat,” according to Thompson. The Eagles sliced the deficit in half midway through the second half, but were unable to make the comeback in a 3-2 loss.
“And we just had to live with that (deficit) for the rest of the game,” Thompson said.
So, Thompson preached to his team before Saturday’s invitational to push and play a more aggressive style of soccer.
And that paid dividends for the Eagles against McDonald County in Game 1.
“We saw a lot more of the stuff we wanted to do,” Thompson said. “We had a lot of off-the-ball movement. We communicated better and played with an energy that we don’t always have until the last 15 to 20 minutes of games.”
Joplin hung a 6-spot on the Mustangs in the first half and the mercy rule was enforced once the Eagles built its lead to 8-0 after two tallies five minutes into the second half.
Eight goals is a season-high mark for Joplin, and it’s also the Eagles first shutout since they blanked Carl Junction 6-0 in last year’s invitational.
Joplin scored early and often in the first half against McDonald County. Midfielder Grayson Stovern put the Eagles on the board in the opening minute after blasting a kick past the Mustangs goalkeeper Tomas De La Cruz.
Off a penalty kick, midfielder Connor Simon collected his first of two goals in the fifth minute for a 2-0 lead. Forward Brady Carter gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead 10 seconds later with a goal at 30:14 mark.
And Carter recorded his second goal in the eighth minute, driving the ball up field and knocking in a shot from the left-side for a 4-0 lead. Forward Andrew Taylor increased Joplin’s lead to 5-0 with a header in the 23rd minute and forward Luciano Reyes capped a dominant first half by the Eagles with another goal a minute later.
In Joplin’s second game, it was much the same against Parsons, a program playing its first season. The Eagles scored six goals in the first half thanks to a pair of goals from Carter and midfielder Adam Montanez and one apiece from Taylor and forward Brayden Anderson.
And the mercy-rule was once again enforced after Carter knocked in two more goals just six minutes into the second half.
“We were glad that we could spread the scores around and get some guys that are a little bit more defensive (involved) and able to contribute offensively,” Thompson said. “They were excited to do that.”
McDonald County won its second game against Parsons 4-1. Coach John Delatorre said he was proud of the way the team finished.
“We rotated some guys in after the Joplin game and went out and made something happen,” Delatorre said. “It was a nice bounce back and we got some confidence back. It was a good day.”
Parsons coach Caleb Reid said he was pleased to get this experience under his players belt.
“This was just an experience for us,” Reid said. “Our goal was to come over here and play a lot tougher competition and not get hurt. We are good on the day.”
With seven games left on the schedule, Joplin hosts Springfield Catholic (7-5) Monday at 6:30 p.m.