Adrian Barrera vividly recalls watching Morton’s most recent trip to the state tournament.
Barrera, a senior defender, is one of the top players on the Mustangs this season.
But three years ago, Barrera was an unknown freshman watching the Mustangs competing at the state tourney at Hoffman Estates High School..
“I remember being in the stands cheering them on and wishing I was with them in the field,” Barrera said. "As a player, it’s always been my dream to experience what it’s like to be a part of a state qualifying team that’s beloved by many and cherished by such a wonderful and diverse community.”
The Mustangs (6-1-1 through Sept. 13) certainly have the talent and the depth to be a key contender for the Class 3A state championship. Eight starters are back from last season’s supersectional team. Morton plays Wheaton Academy in the Pepsi Showdown championship on Sept. 23 in Arlington Heights.
All season, Barrera, an uncommitted recruit, has been a marked player by opposing defenses, especially after scoring 22 goals last season and being named the 2017 Suburban Life Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Morton coach Jim Bageanis said he’s made adjustments to the game plan to take advantage of team’s focusing on stopping Barrera.
“Adrian’s had a lot of double and triple teams running guys at him, forcing him to get rid of the ball,” Bageanis said. “We’ve been using him as a decoy a bit, where you draw those guys out and other guys taking that place. We also drop him in to the midfield when we have a lead to be an extra center middle for us because he can cover sideline to sideline.
“He’s good at anticipating the game and knowing where the ball is going to go. He sacrifices more offense for us this year to do things and play other roles that also help the team.”
The Mustangs remain committed to reaching state after losing to Naperville North in the playoffs for consecutive seasons. Barrera said the team is motivated on ending their state drought.
“[State] is a goal for my team and it also keeps us motivated during practices when we feel tired,” he said. “It also humbles us when we feel [down]. My teammates and I have been working really hard and we’re expecting successful results when we play them [Naperville North] again.
“The keys to make a run to state… are to stay humble, work hard and stay motivated. We are more united this year as a team. We have a strong bond.”
Barrera said he’s planning to putting off his focus on deciding his college selection until after the season. He’s hoping to get more offers in the coming months.
“I’m exciting about my future and playing in college,” he said.