It’s important in soccer to understand teammates, and to predict their next move. Derby coach Paul Burke would agree, although his players understand each other in a far deeper way than most.
Brothers Julio and Hernan Vielmas dominate the central midfield, while their cousin Edgar Vaquera plays goalkeeper. Edgar’s older brother Jose graduated last year.
“They know where they are all the time, because they’re brothers, they’ve been playing together for a long time,” Burke said. “It’s a huge advantage. They’ve known each other their whole lives, they know what the other one’s going to do.”
Not only does the family connection add a special advantage to Derby’s team, but Julio Vielmas, Vaquera and sweeper Austin Swindler have played on the same club team for a number of years. Forward Alan Flores and Hernan Vielmas learned to play together on a younger team from the same club.
The ties to each other correspond with all parts of the field. The Vielmas brothers find Flores by predicting his next move — Julio has eight assists, and Hernan has three — while Vaquera and Swindler communicate on the defensive end.
“Since they know each other, they don’t have to speak as much, just eye contact and movement they know where to make a run. Which doesn’t really help the players who like talking, but for them it works out very well,” Burke said.
The Panthers are on a four-game winning streak, and are 7-2 on the season. Matt Chapman and Chase Sacket add to Derby’s midfield, which Burke thinks is the strongest phase of the team.
“I would say our strength as a team is our midfield: our depth in the midfield, our experience in the midfield, and being able to control the field is the most important thing,” Burke said. “(The Vielmas brothers) know where each other is going to be. Hernan is more of a defensive player, Julio is more of an attacking player and then add Matt Chapman into the mix, he’s a senior and he’s played with Julio since freshman year.”
Kapaun learns early lessons — Kapaun’s three losses on the season have turned out to be almost as beneficial as its seven wins. The Crusaders lost first to Derby in a redemption game after Titan Classic, and also fell to Olathe Northwest and Class 4-1A state champion Topeka Hayden, losing only by one goal in each game.
“I’m focused on the big picture and I want to get as tough of teams as possible on the schedule because it exposes us defensively and offensively. It shows us what we’re good at and helps us build the team throughout the season,” Kapaun coach Alan Shepherd said.
Last year the Crusaders finished third in the Class 5A state tournament.
“In earlier games we noticed that our defensive marking wasn’t as tight as we’d like it to be, we’re making some mistakes as far as positioning, offensively we’re not keeping the ball like we’d like to. Those are some things we noticed against those tougher teams,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd saw weaknesses in the defensive assignments, and taught his team to become more cohesive, attacking and defending as a unit. Since the losses, Kapaun has increased its possession, and defeated tough City League opponents including East and Bishop Carroll.
“We depend on all of those guys to defend together and to ultimately defend as a team,” Shepherd said. “I think our history this season shows that when we defend as a team and when we attack as a team we’re clearly a better team.”