Antonio Gonzalez, the head coach of the Proviso East High School varsity boys’ soccer team, played soccer at Buffalo Grove High School before attending Northern Illinois University.
Gonzalez said he played soccer for a small club team with outsized ambitions in college.
“We were looking to fuel that club and win enough games so that the school could recognize us,” the coach said during a recent interview.
By the time he graduated Northern, his humble soccer club had gotten an invitation to play in an NCAA Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament.
“We set the standard and won plenty of games and made progress against other teams,” Gonzalez recalled of that soccer club. “We took it to the next level.”
Now, Gonzalez, currently in his first year as the head coach of East’s soccer program, has his sights set on another mission — one not unlike the ambitions he had for his club at Northern.
“I’m trying to place the stepping stones so that this program can be successful moving forward,” he said.
When we interviewed Gonzalez, the Proviso East boys’ varsity soccer team was preparing to play its season opener Monday against Aurora East. The team’s second game is Aug. 25 at IC Catholic Prep High School in Elmhurst.
Gonzalez, who succeeded former East soccer coach David Moss, said he was an assistant coach for “three to four years” before taking the head coaching position. Ironically, he’s a school counselor at East’s cross-town rival — Proviso West High School in Hillside.
The coach is clear about where his on-field allegiance is and is clear about the goals he has for his guys. Those include improving the team’s 2021 record of 4-11 overall and 1-5 in West Suburban Gold conference play.
Gonzalez said the team has some potent assets this season, including “a lot of players who can run up and down the field and who are very technical on the ball — good passing and vision.”
He’s hoping those qualities help the team stay the course he’s preparing, including appearing in more tournaments.
“We’re looking to overachieve,” Gonzalez said. “The program has been at a low point, so I’m trying to push the boys. It’s more than just putting on boots, throwing on a uniform, and calling yourself soccer players. How you practice is how you play. If they don’t have good practices, that will transition into their games.”
The Aug. 25 game against IC Catholic Prep is at 7 p.m.