By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
"Use the other foot," Killeen boys soccer coach Sylvester Jallah said. "There's nothing wrong with it."
"I'm not good with that foot," answered Alonso Rivera.
"It won't hurt to try," replied Jallah.
Without an answer, Rivera started shooting with his left leg to compensate for his injured right knee.
And since, few teams have had an answer for Killeen's senior midfielder.
Rivera returned from a preseason medial collateral ligament injury to score 26 goals, including six hat tricks, in Killeen's 10 district games.
"He's surprised me a lot because at first, he used to always go to his right leg
(because) he doesn't like to use (his left leg)," Jallah said. "Now, his right leg is hurt, and his left leg seems to be the dominant leg, which is pretty good for him in college because then he'll be ambidextrous."
Rivera scored his 27th goal this season Friday in Killeen's 3-0 4A bi-district playoff win against Waco La Vega and he will be a factor, either for his scoring or his threat to score, when the Roos (16-7-3) face District 35-4A champion Jacksonville at 7 p.m. Tuesday in an area-round playoff game at Duncanville.
"I just look for the goal the whole time, just look for the goal," Rivera said. "If I have the chance to pass it, I'll pass it, but if not, I'll take it in myself. It comes more from the desire to score."
Not even his desire could initially get him back on the field after injuring his knee in Killeen's Jan. 14 game against Round Rock. The Roos' on-field leader and four-year letterman sat out a month, unable to play the sport he's loved since he was 8 years old, his heart hurting as much as his knee.
"You can ask anyone, I was depressed, just watching them," Rivera said. "I could just sit on the bench and watch because I couldn't do anything else. I couldn't even go get the balls because I couldn't kick with my right foot. It was the most painful time of my life as a soccer player. If I can't play soccer, then my life is just not the way it's supposed to be."
Finally, Jallah got Rivera off the bench.
Rivera played just 30 minutes in his return but scored two goals for the Roos in their 3-0 district-opening win at Robinson on Feb. 15.
"I remember that week I could barely run, but yet, I scored two goals. Then after that, I took some home remedies and kept working," Rivera said. "I'm like, 'I'm hurt but yet I can score.' It just boosts up your confidence. If you've got confidence, you can score."
He followed his two-goal game against Robinson with five hat tricks in the Roos' next six games, including back-to-back four-goal games, and scored five in Killeen's 8-0 win over Gatesville on March 15.
"For him, it's a good blessing because (now) he can use both feet," Jallah said. "Most of the time, if you're right-footed, you're going to go to your right side - if you're left-footed, it's your left side. But if you're ambidextrous and somebody knows you're right-footed, they're going to push you to your left side and then you use your left foot and beat him."
With his ability to shoot with his left foot, coupled with his speed and dribbling talents, teams have resorted to double-teaming him. But even that hasn't worked out ideally for the Roos' opponents.
Midway double-teamed and blanked Rivera in both games it played against Killeen, but on March 11, Killeen's Marvin Henderson took advantage, scoring on a Daniel Carrazales assist to give the Roos a 1-0 win and the Panthers their only loss of the season. Lorena tried the same tactic a week later in the regular season finale, but Rivera managed a goal anyway and Killeen won that one as well.
"The first time we played (Lorena), I scored four," Rivera said. "Then, the second game at their house, they had two people following me the whole game. They got tired; they'd put someone else on me and they kept chasing me."
Rivera's right knee still pains him, but by wrapping it before each game, at least he can play.
"I had to get used to using my left foot because I'm a right-foot player and going to your left is really hard," Rivera said. "I had to get used to it, but it's helped me out a lot.
"I'm thinking if I hadn't had the injury, how many could I have scored? Many times I had the shot with my right foot, but I had to go to my left foot because it's the only one I can (shoot with)."
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org (254) 501-7562.