Written by Corbett Smith
Military training pays off for coach South Garland boys soccer coach Sean Falloure
As the horn sounded, South Garland coach Sean Falloure cracked a broad smile. It was well-earned.
A week ago Tuesday, his team’s tense, 2-1 win over Garland secured a playoff berth — a first for Falloure, in his first year as the boys soccer coach.
It upended preseason predictions that South Garland would finish well back in District 11-5A. It’s one of five schools with fewer than 2,090 students, which is the cutoff for 5A, that opt to play in the state’s largest classification.
And South Garland managed success in the second half of district play with a variety of injuries. Its best player, Adrian Salazar, has missed the last month with a broken collarbone.
“We’re rag-tagging it right now,” Falloure said. “But it’s working.”
But for Falloure, the accomplishment might taste a bit sweeter.
At the end of the 2009 season, he stepped aside as South Garland’s girls coach — missing the next 18 months because of his military service, including a year-long deployment to Iraq as part of the U.S. Army reserves.
He and his brother, Craig, had enlisted, in part, as a response to 9/11, and with a “sense that everyone should serve the country in some form,” Falloure said. “It makes you appreciate the rights and freedoms you have even more.”
The call-up drew him into a situation — during the troop drawdown in Iraq — that saw increasing instability on the ground as Iraqi troops supplanted U.S. forces.
His specialty, Psychological Operations or PSYOPS for short, called for him to interact with the Iraqi population with regularity; PSYOPS is tasked with developing sources in the field that can be called on to aid the U.S. efforts.
“We do a lot of face-to-face conversations,” Falloure said. “It’s important to go in and gain relationships, and to do that, you have to build confidence pretty quickly. That’s a pretty good skill as a coach too, to be able to come in and have them buy in quickly.”
Falloure has managed that this season. His players said that Falloure often talks to them about his military service, drawing on that experience to give them lessons in discipline, work ethic and toughness.
“He’s treating us good, making us work hard,” goalkeeper Andy Soto said.
Midfielder Adrian Barajas added, “It’s made us tough, to not be scared to go up against other players.”
Falloure’s military requirement has thrown a few curveballs this season. He had to miss the Feb. 5 game against North Garland for a military drill, leaving his team in the hands of his assistant Garrett Daniels and Ashley Cecil, the girls assistant. South Garland rallied from a two-goal deficit at halftime to win, 3-2.
“Neither wanted to give me that call when we were down 2-0 at half,” Falloure said.
With Salazar back in the fold, South Garland (12-6-3) will have a fighting chance to make a playoff run when it opens with a bi-district game against Mesquite Horn on Thursday. South Garland lost, 1-0, to Jesuit in the bi-district round last season.
“They said that we’re out of a playoff race with me gone,” Salazar said. “But look where we are now.”
Falloure called Soto — an honorable mention all-district player last season who made some outstanding diving saves in the win over Garland — a difference-maker. Salazar and Barajas have been selected as two of 13 finalists for Spanish-language soccer magazine Futbol Mundial’s Best of the Best competition.
Soto said the goal was to get to state, but South Garland is a stout long shot to make it that far. Still, if it happens, another hurdle is on the horizon for Falloure: a military drill scheduled for that weekend.
“I think I’d have to go AWOL for that one,” Falloure said.
Follow Corbett Smith on Twitterat @corbettsmithDMN