Talk about your soccer diversity and versatility.
When High Tech High School sophomore Lucas Pardo-Rea plays club soccer in the summer for the prestigious Ironbound program, he plays goalkeeper.
“When I started out playing soccer, I had a growth spurt and got pretty tall,” Pardo-Rea said. “So the coach put me at goalie and I never played anywhere else. I had no problem with it. Wherever the coach wanted me to play, then that’s where I was going to play.”
But when the time came for Pardo-Rea to play high school soccer for his home district Weehawken High School program, he became a defender.
“He was our center back last year,” said Weehawken head coach Brian Fischer. “He has great speed and covers the field well. He really played all over the place for us last year, but he was mostly a defender.”
When the 2018 season began for the Indians a few weeks ago, Pardo-Rea was playing more of a defensive midfield position.
But when the Indians faced Palisades Park on Sept. 10, Pardo-Rea’s high school soccer life suddenly changed.
“We were down 3-0 in the first 20 minutes,” Fischer said. “It was a rainy day and we weren’t getting many chances.”
So Fischer made a strategic switch and placed Pardo-Rea at striker. It was a gamble, considering the Indians trailed by three goals in the first half. But Fischer felt he had to do something.
Again, not wanting to rock the boat, Pardo-Rea was willing to make the move to the forward line.
“For sure, I felt like I could do some damage playing up top,” Pardo-Rea said. “So we took the chance and moved me up front. I’m one of those kinds of players who don’t like to lose. I thought this could be the spark to get us going.”
It didn’t take long for Pardo-Rea to make his presence felt. He scored a goal within the first five minutes of the position change, then added another before halftime to cut the lead to 3-2.
“Once I got the first one, I could see that my teammates were into the game more,” Pardo-Rea said. “It was a huge goal. It got the momentum going on our side. I could feel the swing. My teammates got me the passes and I had to finish. That was my job.”
But what took place in the second half was beyond incredible.
Pardo-Rea scored four more goals after the break, giving him six for the game. It also enabled the Indians to come home with a 6-4 victory.
Pardo-Rea broke the Weehawken school record for goals in a game. The previous record was five, set by Irakalis Bouranaris more than 30 years ago.
Incredibly, Pardo-Rea scored more goals in this one game than he tallied all of last season, when he scored five goals and added one assist.
“I never scored more than two goals in a game before,” Pardo-Rea said. “And I had six. It was a little surreal. I was sitting on the bus and it started to sink in that I scored six goals. I just let it sink in. I never even dreamed of scoring six in a game. I never dreamed of getting more than three. It was definitely surreal.”
One thing that is not surreal: Pardo-Rea has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the first week of the scholastic high school season.
The weekly feature will culminate in June with the presentation of the Hudson Reporter Male and Female Athletes of the Year, symbolic of the top athletes in Hudson County. This marks the 28th year of the weekly feature and year-end awards.
Pardo-Rea is the first-ever Weehawken soccer player to ever receive the weekly honor.
Fischer believes that this game is just the start of something big for the talented sophomore.
“It was awesome to watch,” Fischer said. “His speed was the biggest thing. Once he started going, the rest of the team rallied behind him. He only took eight shots and scored six times. After he scored the third one, I was amazed, but he just kept going. It was unbelievable.
Added Fischer, “He uses his speed to separate from a defender. Once he’s going at a full sprint, he’s hard to stop. He took the shots and kept them under the crossbar. It was quite impressive.”
So having the versatile background leaves a major dilemma moving forward. Is Pardo-Rea a goalkeeper? Is he a center back defender, like he was for the Indians last year? Or is he a midfielder, where he started this season? Or a striker where he stepped up and scored six goals?
“I think he’s very much a team player first,” Fischer said. “Since he’s played goalie for most of his life, he might think that’s where he should be. But I think he relishes playing in the field. And you can see the results. He’s also not a selfish player at all. He just wants to help the team.”
Pardo-Rea has also collected two assists this season, including an assist on the lone goal in Weehawken’s win over Wood-Ridge earlier this season.
In Fischer’s eyes, Pardo-Rea will remain at striker.
“I think this big game is a good indicator of what he can do,” Fischer said. “He’s a steadying force. He gives the other kids the idea that we can win. He makes us a little more competitive offensively.”
The one-game outburst has helped to bring attention to the Weehawken boys’ soccer program. After all, this is a program that scored eight goals for the entire season four years ago. And now, thanks to Pardo-Rea, they had six in one game.
“Hopefully, Lucas can do it in other games,” Fischer said. “I’ve never had a kid score six in a game before. He’s an incredible kid. He’s quiet and reserved. He doesn’t like the spotlight. But he’s incredibly fast. His physique is also impressive. I don’t know what the future brings, but it certainly looks bright.”
Although he’s only a sophomore, it’s not too early to think about college. It’s safe to say that having a six-goal game on your resume can only help gaining attention from college recruiters.
“I hope colleges saw it and will contact me,” Pardo-Rea said. “I just have to keep doing it. I’ve always been taught to pass before I shoot. That’s what I still do. My number one dream is to play on the highest stage of college. I feel more confident now that it can happen.”
But when spring arrives and Pardo-Rea heads back to his club program, he more than likely will be bringing his goalie gloves.
“Before the season starts, I’ll make the transition back to being a goalie,” Pardo-Rea said. “I’ve always thought to myself that it’s better to not play one position. I’ll let the coaches decide where I play. But I have to admit. It was a lot of fun scoring six. And we won the game, so it was fun for my teammates as well.” – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.