COLUMBIA — By his own admission, times like these hadn't always gone so right.
"I've had a few pretty bad free kicks this season," Hickman boys soccer sophomore Colin Smith said after Tuesday night's Class 3 District 9 semifinals at LeMone Field. "I guess I just wanted to give us a chance for a district championship."
This time, with the game scoreless and 2 minutes, 53 seconds remaining on the clock, Smith attempted a free kick from outside the box about 30 yards away from the goal. He lofted his kick over the wall of opposing Blue Springs South players outside the box.
Meanwhile, senior Daniel Cardoso was skirting toward the left side of the goal.
"He was just sneaking in, and I thought I'd just give it a whirl," Smith said.
Smith's trust was in a teammate who had only come to Hickman — andto the country — this year.
By the time a leaping Cardoso came down to the ground, the ball he booted was in the net and he was twirling around into the celebration of Smith and others. It was his first goal of the season, and it was all the Kewpies (7-13-1) needed to upset the Jaguars (13-7-1) and set up Thursday night's district championship with rival Rock Bridge.
"(It's been) so good," Cardoso said of his transition as a foreign exchange student from Brazil. "Soccer's helped a lot. These guys, they are amazing. They've helped me out."
Once the game ended, coach Adam Taylor gave a fist pump. Players from the bench darted to midfield to celebrate around Cardoso.
The Kewpies fell to Blue Springs South in last year's district semifinal. Their newest addition ensured that wasn't the case this time around.
"It's been a transition, like he said," Taylor said. "He came in with a great attitude."
Cardoso, whose host family is freshman teammate Samuel Hosmer-Quint's family, said he's played soccer all his life.
"It just boils down to, Daniel is a great kid," Taylor said. "We're lucky to have him this year."
Now, the Kewpies will get another shot at the state-ranked Bruins, who won the last meeting this season 5-0.
"All you can ask for is to get to the final and see what happens," Taylor said. "They play the game for a reason. We respect Rock Bridge. They're a good team but we don't feel by any means that we can't step up and play with them. If we don't have confidence, we shouldn't show up."
Coming off his shutout performance, freshman goalie Jacob Gunn was excited for another chance against Rock Bridge.
"We've waited for it all season," he said.
After the game, Taylor reminded his team of the goal set from the first week of practice: an opportunity for a district championship.
"We're just hoping that we can stay in it for as long as possible and see what happens," Taylor said of the championship game, set for 6 p.m. Thursday. "Kind of like tonight. You never know. The longer you stay in the game the more chances you give yourself to win."
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