McKinney boys soccer

McKinney senior Preston Sabetpour celebrates a goal scored during the Lions’ 2-0 victory over North Garland on Friday at the Allen Eagle Showcase.

ALLEN — Two straight wins at the Allen Eagle Showcase Thursday and Friday resonated a bit different for the McKinney boys soccer team.

The Lions exited Allen’s Eagle Stadium on Friday with back-to-back shutout victories of Hebron (1-0) and North Garland (2-0) for the team’s first wins of a season that has been anything but seamless for head coach Alan Pocock and his squad. 

“I was saying to the guys how proud I was of them being able to roll with the punches of quarantines and injuries. It’s mind-boggling what we’ve already had to contend with,” Pocock said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already taken its toll on the Lions’ depth, forcing Pocock to shift players to different positions and dig into his junior varsity roster just to field a lineup at the varsity level. 

“We literally went the entire semester pretty sure about our lineup and then it got completely blown up,” Pocock said. “Our game reports last week had eight lines through them with players not available due to injuries or quarantines. We have to be patient and patch-work together what we can to find a result, and to show up for this tournament and do it I’m super proud of them.”

The Lions were a bit closer to full strength Friday against North Garland, riding goals from senior Preston Sabetpour and junior Israel Manzo Mendez on a pair of hard strikes in the box to pick up their second win of the season.

McKinney held the Raiders off the scoreboard as well, the team’s second straight match doing so after blanking Hebron on Thursday. Since getting gashed for eight goals against Prosper Rock Hill on Jan. 5, the Lions have surrendered just one goal in three matches since.

“After that debacle debut game — I’m quarantined and a bunch of other guys are quarantined, plus we had a rash of injuries in a 12-hour span after Christmas break — we had to just concentrate of being ready for Guyer on Jan. 26,” Pocock said. “We want to win every game, but let’s make sure we’re improving each game.”

Pocock saw plenty of progress during his team’s stay in Allen, lauding the play of senior Jesus Martinez in helping shore up the back line in front of standout senior goalkeeper Kadin Medrano, as well as the work of players like freshman Dylan Culbertson, a JV call-up who accounted for the varsity team’s first goal of the season in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Hebron.

“We’ve got a long way to go in playing better soccer,” Pocock said. “However, I temper that with patience with how we’re having to move players around and pull up players from JV every single game.”

As McKinney mixes and matches its personnel, the focus remains on being ready to go for its District 5-6A opener against Guyer on Jan. 26. At full strength, Pocock anticipates big contributions from senior Ethan Orozco, who looks to build off a 9-6A utility player of the year campaign last season, as well as seniors Joshua Milla and Giovanni Montez to spark a McKinney team that qualified for the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 — advancing three rounds deep to the regional quarterfinals both years.

The Lions close out their preseason schedule at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Plano before moving onto their conference schedule.

“The silver lining is we’ll definitely be battle-tested. We’ve already played so many players at multiple positions,” Pocock said. “I think if you talk to any coach, that’s what this season is going to look like.”

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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