Johan Prado’s comfort leading Southside’s defense

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2017

CHOCOWINITY — Southside has natural soccer players like sophomore Jario Juarez leading the forward corps. There are seasoned seniors spearheading the defense in Jose Perez Garcia and Remington Huggins.

But few players are as reliable as goalkeeper Johan Prado. The sophomore stud made four saves for a clean sheet in Southside’s 5-0 win over Tarboro in its 1-A Coastal Plains Conference opener. The Seahawks also had their five goals all come from different players.

Coach Jay Petty said it’s Prado’s comfort in goal that lets him excel.

“He just has this uncanny ability. I’ve had goalies in the past that do great, but he’s just a natural at it,” Petty said. “He is so natural and he just feels so comfortable in front of the goal. You can take other players and train them, but you always kind of see they’re a little uncomfortable.”

It has a lot to do with Prado’s love for the position. Programs at the 1-A level may sometimes struggle to find a true keeper that wants to be in goal all the time. Not Southside. Petty said that Prado wants to be in goal all the time — even in practice.

“I just feel comfortable in the position. I don’t mind playing it. I love it,” Prado said. “To me, it’s skill. I’ve always had it in me. I just have to get better at things.”

It was on display last week when Southside hosted South Lenoir in its non-conference finale. Prado had some close calls. There was one instance where an attempt at a cross nearly saw the ball curl right into the far side of the goal. Prado was caught off guard, but still made the save by mere inches at a critical juncture in a 2-0 win.

Part of Prado’s comfort is natural. Part of it is derived from the Seahawks’ philosophy. Petty preaches defense starting up top. If the forwards pressure the opponent well, the Seahawk netminder won’t see much action on his end.

“We play defense from front to back. What we want to do is try to keep pressure off Johan,” Petty said. “That makes a goalie comfortable, too, if he doesn’t feel pressure.

“The way we play defense is to keep the pressure on them and keep it off Johan. It gives him the opportunity to make good choices. He doesn’t have to react to the ball.”

The next step for Prado to make is to become a more vocal leader on the defense. Of course, with two of the team’s captains being defensemen, there’s no shortage of leadership in the back. Even so, it will make Prado a smarter player as he progresses through his Southside career.

“I’ve been trying to get him a little more vocal and taking control back there,” Petty said. “Letting the back four know where he is and what he’s doing, and being able to control that back four.”

Prado feels like he already has a great relationship with his defense. It makes taking on that role a bit easier. It helps that his brother, junior Kevin Prado, is one of those defenders.

“Javier (Mondragon), Cole (Godley), Jose (Garcia), Kevin, Eduardo (Gonzalez) — basically my entire defense,” he said. “They all help me. I believe all the team helps me and I help them out.”

Southside, riding a three-game win streak, looks to continue its winning ways at Southside on Wednesday.