McKINNEY — Since beginning the month of March with a 1-0 loss to McKinney Boyd, the Allen boys soccer team has found its second wind.
The Eagles won their seventh match in a row on Tuesday, cruising past Grand Prairie 5-1 at McKinney ISD Stadium in the area round of the Class 6A playoffs. Bound for the regional quarterfinals for the second straight postseason, Allen has outscored opponents 31-3 over its month-long, seven-game surge.
“We’re just working hard and taking opportunities. The kids are keeping the ball in play and that’s all we can ask for,” said Kim Fullerton, Allen head coach.
Tuesday’s win marked Allen’s seventh straight match with at least three goals scored. Those tallies ran the gamut against Grand Prairie — off set pieces, in the run of play or via penalty kick — but none more unique than the goal that began Tuesday’s proceedings.
Moments after having a free kick cleared, Allen senior Isaiah Moreno fired a shot that deflected off the foot of Grand Prairie midfielder Angel Barraza — a ball that not only stayed on course toward the net but took a high bounce over the outstretched arm of Gopher goalkeeper Jose Romero and in for a 1-0 lead in the match’s 10th minute.
“[Moreno] has a knack for stuff like that. He’s had three goals this year all off funny deflections like that, but they’ve all come at key moments,” Fullerton said.
Allen doubled its advantage before halftime thanks to a long-range strike from senior Brendan Pipher before relying on its execution in set pieces to swell the advantage in the second half. The Eagles countered a Grand Prairie goal by Jesus Quinonez in the 45th minute with three unanswered goals to round out the match, all coming outside the run of play.
In the 54th minute, a corner kick by senior Bryan Vallejo found the head of two different Eagles — first senior Greysen Golgert and then senior Sam Presser for the goal and a 3-1 advantage.
Golgert again put his head to use in the 67th minute after a free kick from junior Ayden Mendoza. The midfielder sent the ball to the far side of the net where Golgert, the tallest player on the pitch, got behind the Grand Prairie defense and headed in the team’s fourth goal of the contest.
“We’ve got a height advantage there and just tried to exploit that,” Fullerton said. “We have a couple set plays to call there, but when you’ve got size like 6-3 or 6-4 then you’ve got to use it. We were able to execute well.”
Senior Connor Zaleski polished off the victory after being fouled in the box and subsequently converting a penalty kick in the 76th minute — marking the second time in three matches that the Eagles have scored at least five goals.
The Gophers’ lone dent on the scoreboard came in the 45th minute after Jose Esquivel threaded a ball through the Allen and right to Quinonez, who buried a shot in the box for the goal.
The Eagles kept Grand Prairie at bay the rest of the match, even amidst a chippy second half that saw five yellow cards handed out, including one to each side during an altercation at midfield inside the match’s final 10 minutes.
“We talked to our kids a lot about the tendencies of this team — they’ll try to get under your skin a bit and you’ve just got to keep your cool,” Fullerton said. “We’ll see teams and situations like that if we keep advancing and hopefully we can keep weathering the storm.”
Allen won’t lack familiarity with its next playoff opponent, drawing District 5-6A rival Prosper later this week at a time and place to be determined. Leading up the regional quarterfinal, the pair of Eagles split their two regular-season meetings.
“The kids played hard. That was a very skillful Grand Prairie team,” Fullerton said. “They were very fast, but we weathered it and got some key goals at the right time. We just have to get our legs back and get ready for Friday.”