New practice plan turns fortunes around for surging men’s soccer team

A 4-2 loss to eventual Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference men’s soccer champion Waubonsee sent Morton College coach Juan Franco back to the drawing board.

Franco needs to patent his blueprint on how the Panthers turned their season around. The Panthers, a pedestrian 7-5-2 following the Waubonsee defeat, have reeled off seven straight wins to assure the program’s 10th consecutive winning season.

Morton College (14-5-2) can tie the program record held by the 2010 squad for most victories in a season when the Panthers go for their 15th win in the regular-season finale against Robert Morris at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 22, at home.

During its seven-game surge, Morton College has outscored the opposition 36-3 and enters the Region IV playoffs with the No. 4 seed. The Panther open the playoff against either Prairie State or Kishwaukee at noon Saturday, October 26. Prairie State and Kishwaukee face off in the first round of the Region IV Tournament Wednesday, October 23.

Franco’s secret to success? He started dedicated the first hour of every practice to finishing plays with an emphasis on limited touches.

“We started finishing right away,” Franco said. “It’s been a big change. If we play like this, we have a chance to beat anyone.”

The Panthers feature the nation’s leading goal scorer in Alexis Monteon. The freshman has scored 23 goals. Franco also credits defenders Farai Tsingano and Carlos Leon as well as forwards Juan Salgado, Sergio Otalora, Antonio Reyes and Misael Martinez for playing important roles in Morton College’s about-face.