Herndon High’s boys' soccer team received a tough break last week when standout sophomore center midfielder Patrick McLaughlin was lost for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right knee injury.
The timing of the injury is particularly poor for the Hornets, who were scheduled to begin postseason play this week with a first round Concorde District match versus Chantilly on Tuesday night, May 18 (after press time). The game was originally scheduled for a day earlier on Monday, but rainy weather forced the postponement.
McLauglin was injured early in the second half of Herndon's 3-2 district home win over Chantilly on Wednesday, May 12, when he made a sliding tackle into the goal tender. McLauglin was given a red card on the play — a call Herndon head coach Steve Lee said could have gone either way.
A day after the injury loss to McLauglin, who even as a sophomore is regarded as one of the top players in the Concorde, Herndon concluded its regular season schedule with a 2-0 district home loss to Oakton on May 13.
"We lost arguably our most effective player," said Lee, completing his first season as the Herndon head coach. "Patrick is up there as one of the highest ranked players in the district. The team is disappointed. His [absence] certainly hurt us in the Oakton game. But those are the breaks."
In what has been a successful season for Herndon (7-3-3), the late-season loss of the talented McLaughlin is certainly a blow to the team's postseason hopes. The Hornets needed a win over Chantilly on Tuesday to advance to the district semifinals on Wednesday, May 19 versus No. 2-seed Centreville. A victory over Chantilly would also give Herndon an automatic seeding at next week's 16-team Northern Region playoffs.
Herndon entered the district playoffs as the No. 3 seed, while Chantilly was the No. 6 seed. The district's top two finishers in the regular season — No. 1 Robinson and No. 2 Centreville — received first round district playoff byes.
<b>MCLAUGHLIN</b>, who suffered no ligament damage, is expected to be on the mend for six to eight weeks, according to Lee. The injury is certainly not a threat to the young players' future in the sport, which includes two more years at Herndon.
McLaughlin scored five goals with six assists this season. But his presence on the soccer field goes well beyond statistics. Even as a 10th grader, McLauglin is a team leader and catalyst.
"Patrick's a player who, when things are not going well, he rallies players around him," said Lee.
By his demeanor and his skills, McLaughlin is a game-changer.
"He's a strong, powerful player and he's sound defensively," said Lee. "He stops [opposing offensive] attacks from even being built. [On offense] he's a tough goal scorer. He had the second most assists on our team. He's a powerful player in the air. Certainly everybody we've played in the district knows Patrick is a threat."
Lee said his team has worked on strategies to help Herndon be as successful as it can be in the playoffs without McLaughlin.
"We've had to change a number of things," said Lee.
McLauglin was one of three Herndon players who were recently named by the coaches to the All-Concorde District First Team. The other two Hornets named to the First Team were goalie Alex Stopa and defender Emile Doak, both seniors. Herndon players named Second Team All-District were senior Wynton Rose, sophomore Emmanuel Korvah, freshman Roman Gall, junior Raleigh McKenzie and junior Sam Eaddy. Peter Sullivan, a junior, made Honorable Mention.