Richard Alcantar is a traffic director on the soccer field.
As a defender, the Oak Lawn senior’s voice is one of his best assets.
“I can pretty much play any position, but my coach (Nate Joiner) thinks I’m strong in the back and help a lot back there,” Alcantar said. “I talk a lot, which is what he likes. I can get the team set up and tell guys what to do and where to be. I can see the whole field and tell guys where to go.”
Alcantar pretty much is a newcomer when it comes to organized soccer. While most star players on high school teams have been playing for several years, he didn’t begin until high school.
“I was out of shape freshman year,” he said. “Then I really started liking soccer. I had never played on a serious team before and I started to realize, ‘This is something I like to do and I want to go as far as I can with it.’ I got in shape and started improving as a player.”
Alcantar quickly has developed into an essential player for the Spartans. Joiner picked him to be a captain this season.
“Richard is a very solid player in the back and a good leader,” Joiner said.
Alcantar is embracing the captain’s role despite his initial surprise.
“At first, I was kind of shocked,” Alcantar said. “I didn’t think he’d pick me, but I like it. I think I’ll do a good job and help us win as many games as we can.
“I like to motivate our players. I like to tell them what they’re doing wrong and what they’re doing right and help them work together. I like being a leader.”
Alcantar thinks he has the skills to play forward or midfielder and be a goal scorer, but he’s happy giving up his shot at piling up stats for the benefit of the team.
“For me, it’s not all about scoring,” he said. “I don’t care if I don’t score as long as we win. If my friend or my teammate scores the most goals, I don’t mind as long as we win. He’s doing his job and I’m doing mine, defending. Without defense, you’re not going to win. I want to win.”
Last season, Oak Lawn was one of the Southland’s biggest surprises, finishing 13-7-1 and earning wins over perennial South Suburban Red powers Reavis and eventual conference champion Eisenhower.
The Spartans lost a strong group of seniors from that team and return just four starters, including Alcantar, on a young squad.
Alcantar, though, thinks his team can continue to sneak up on people.
“We just have to all work together and get along, and listen to our coach and do whatever he says,” he said. “We want to watch other teams, learn how they play, figure out who their best players are and just come at them. Surprise them.”