High-scoring DiFalco diversifies his game for Franklin Regional boys soccer team

Sunday, October 3, 2021 | 3:47 PM

It was like time stopped for a few seconds, and Anthony DiFalco was controlling the dials.

The rolling boil that was the Franklin Regional offense that night against Greensburg Salem became a gentle simmer as DiFalco slowed the pace briefly to set up another scoring opportunity.

Junior Jake Zimmerman took the ball wide and passed to the middle, where DiFalco was waiting about 17 yards from the goal. The senior, facing the sideline and never even squaring to the net, ever so gently side-touched the ball to junior midfielder Colton Hudson. It was as close to a no-look pass as you’ll see in soccer.

Hudson finished on the way to a 10-0 victory, the Class 3A No. 2-ranked Panthers’ eighth win in a row and seventh straight via shutout at the time.

DiFalco has been dropping off passes — not all of them quite like that one — all season.

“His vision is rare,” Panthers assistant coach Ande Saporito said. “His passing ability, he just hits you in stride.”

That result wasn’t the impressive part. It was how the Panthers arrived at it. An array of passes — extra passes — and constant ball movement showed their balance.

“As chemistry gets better with this team, the more the chances come,” DiFalco said. “We’re doing more from the middle, and more guys are getting shots. We’re getting better shots.”

DiFalco, known for his scoring ability as the program’s all-time leading goal scorer with 101 — it turns out he broke Tom Mossellem’s 80-something record last season — has been showing his enhanced role as a facilitator.

Sure, he still is one of the best finishers in the WPIAL, but his game has another layer to it, partly because he wants it that way and also because of a formation change under new coach Thomas Louisy.

There are times when DiFalco is more Chris Paul than Cristiano Ronaldo, more the point guard than the go-to striker.

“College coaches want to see that more,” DiFalco said. “The strikers are bigger guys. I will probably play more midfield.”

Through 11 games, DiFalco had 16 goals and 22 assists for the Panthers (9-2). The former All-American and regular All-WPIAL and All-State pick had 37 goals and 24 assists as a junior.

“I have always had a natural connection with Anthony,” said Hudson, who had 10 goals and seven assists in 11 games. “It starts with our defense. We have a trust with each other.”

Now playing with four defenders on the back line, the Panthers set up goals differently. DiFalco said the adjustment is ongoing, but it is working.

“We’re used to using the wings a lot,” he said. “We still need to work on some things and build chemistry. We have some boxes to check.”

With multiple defenders on him — one game he had four chasing him around the yard — DiFalco is taking attention away from other scorers, and they are capitalizing.

“He just draws guys away,” Saporito said. “He demands that attention. That allows him to distribute the ball to our other guys.”

Franklin Regional is 66-7-2 with DiFalco in the lineup with two WPIAL championships, a runner-up and two PIAA semifinal trips.

Amazingly, the team has 52 shutouts over the course of his prep career.

DiFalco had 36 goals as a sophomore.

“Anthony is a complete player,” Saporito said. “He creates separation to get into a finishing position. He is so good at that.”

DiFalco is evaluating the college schools most interested in him and plans to take visits soon. He said he wants to stay close to home.

DiFalco said the team learned from a 4-1 loss to Plum that ended its winning streak.

“We need to be more aware,” he said. “That was like a playoff game. That is what we’re going to see down the road.”

Junior forward Billy Christafano also had 10 goals for the Panthers.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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