Male Athlete of the Week: Lopez filling new roles for Falcons as senior

Elmer Lopez

Elmer Lopez

WOODSTOCK – Central High School boys soccer coach Ted Poor has seen two different types of seniors come through the Falcons’ program over the years.

Sometimes Poor will get a senior that decides to mail it in and coast through his final high school season. Other times, the finality that comes with being a senior has the opposite effect, and it drives an athlete to play well during the pinnacle of his high school soccer career.

The latter, Poor said before Monday’s practice, is Falcons senior midfielder Elmer Lopez.

Lopez, a four-year varsity player for Central, said his leadership role on the team hasn’t changed much now that he is an upperclassman. He’s always tried to be a vocal leader for the Falcons during his career, only now he feels an added responsibility to make sure his younger teammates are competing up to expectations and going about things the right way.

From a positional standpoint, however, Lopez’s role this spring has certainly been different. A midseason JV call-up as a freshman, Lopez began his varsity career as a defender, played a mix of defensive and midfield roles as a sophomore and moved to left midfielder last season. This spring, Lopez bounces around between the left and center attacking midfield spots.

“The center attacking mid requires me to be able to pass to my players without having to look for them,” Lopez said. “They have to be open for me, and Ivan (Alvarado) fits in that role too. We try to play more as a team using that role. But me as a left winger also helps because I know the 10 role and I know where the passes are gonna be at, so I know the runs to make as well.”

Lopez has settled into that dual role nicely for the Falcons in 2016, and he flashed his versatility again last Friday night in a road match against Bull Run District foe Rappahannock County. Lopez, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for April 25-May 1, scored two goals while tallying two assists in the Falcons’ 7-0 win.

That match, which featured “pristine” passing and over 40 shots from the Falcons, said Poor, allowed Lopez to show off the reason why his head coach wanted to move him into a more prominent role in Central’s attack this spring.

“He’s got a marvelous right-footed shot,” Poor said. “Sometimes because of his speed his plant foot loses its proper positioning and the ball will fly over the goal. And I’ve talked to him about it, things he can do to work on that. One is to start to plant a little further up and then when he comes through he’ll get over that ball. He had a rocket, a beautiful shot at Rappahannock where he put a slice on it, that nice spin, and hooked it into the corner.”

The shift to center attacking midfielder, which allows Lopez to use his speed to burst past opposing defenders, has led to a surge in the senior’s offensive output this season. Lopez, who scored three goals during his first three varsity seasons, had eight goals this spring prior to Tuesday’s match against Clarke County.

Lopez said his leap in production is a product of Central’s aggressive formation designed to take advantage of the Falcons’ speed.

“It is an attacking team no matter what,” said Lopez, who scored four goals – a career high – in a win over Warren County last month. “We have speed up front. I’m not the only one that’s scored so many goals. It’s not because it’s just one sole player. It’s because we are an attacking formation when we play and that opens up gaps for not just me but all of them, as well.”

It hasn’t been all about scoring for Lopez, either, as he said he enjoys dishing out assists more than simply being a goal scorer. Lopez is tied with Korey Wolford for the team lead with eight assists and has helped facilitate a Falcons attack that includes Wolford (team-high 13 goals), Alvarado (seven goals), J.P. Bennett (five goals) and Tyler Bosserman (four goals).

“I used to not be like that. I used to just wanna score, get in there and score,” Lopez said. “Now considering the fact that everybody tries just as hard as I do on this team I don’t mind giving away a few assists.”

In addition to the obvious physical growth he’s experienced since his freshman season, Lopez said he’s matured in some of the intangible aspects of soccer too.

“I feel like I’ve definitely improved on the visual part of the game, just thinking about the game, not actually just playing physically,” he said. “It’s mental too and that allows me to be a bigger role as well as a bigger leader on the field.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com

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