Juan Rios knows the value of applying pressure in soccer.
Highland’s senior captain helped create pressure in the Rams’ 2-0 victory over reigning Class 4A state champion Olympus.
The Titans were relentless in their pursuit of the ball, with Michael Driggs and Junior Talley antagonizing the Rams and breaking up attacks. But Highland answered the pressure.
"You got to get that pressure going and finish strong," Rios said. "We have to play physical. You can’t have teams push you around."
Scoring started in the first half when Omar Velasquez took a cross in the box and drilled it to the back of the net in the 25th minute for a 1-0 lead, which is how it stood at halftime.
Rios broke away on the left side of the field after securing a throw-in moments into the second half. He split the defense and unloaded a left-footed strike to the far post.
"When I saw him get the ball, I’d figure it was a goal," Highland coach Brad Kooyman said. "When he gets one-on-one, he finishes a lot."
The defensive work of Matt Warne and keeper Michael Kerr kept Highland scoreless. Warne’s presence in the backline disrupted Olympus’ attacks, and Kerr’s foot kept the ball on the other side of the field. Kerr boomed kicks to Highland’s keeper three times in the game.
"I am trying to teach forwards that when he kicks it, start rushing to the other end," Kooyman said. "His leg will turn out to be a weapon for us by the end of the year."
Kooyman was pleased with his team’s physical play and its determination not to get pushed around by the larger Olympus team.
"We wanted to focus on defense and tighten up our attack," Kooyman said. "I am really glad that we pulled this one out."
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