A jack-of-all-trades, master of none? Daniel Chance is doing his best to debunk that notion on the soccer field.
Ask Chance, Free State High’s three-position marvel to do pretty much anything on the field, and he’ll do it.
This season alone, Chance was called upon to play defense, midfielder and score during key portions of games. He executed all three with aplomb.
He’d probably fill the water bottles and wash practice jerseys if asked to do that, too.
“I don’t know if he’s the best forward or defender or midfielder we’ve ever had,” Free State coach Jason Pendleton said, “but he’s the best player we’ve ever had.”
Chance’s all-around performance for the Firebirds this season earned him the Journal-World’s all-area boys soccer player of the year award.
Despite spending much of his time anchoring the back third of the field on defense, Chance scored 12 goals with five assists.
“He’s just a finisher,” Pendleton said. “When he gets opportunities typically in the attacking portion of the field, he takes advantage.”
Chance demonstrated his value to the Firebirds in each of the team’s final two playoff contests. He assisted on the game-winning goal in the third overtime of Free State’s 1-0 victory against Topeka High, advancing the Firebirds to the regional championship game. In the regional final, he scored the Firebirds’ only goal in a 3-1 loss against Washburn Rural, ending Free State’s season at 7-6-5.
Position shifts are nothing new to Chance anymore. Pendleton immediately tossed Chance into the varsity fire as a freshman, starting him at defender, despite the fact that he hadn’t ever played the position.
“Right away, he was one of our best players out there, and it looked like he belonged,” Pendleton said. “And he never complained. He was willing to take a defensive role because that’s what we needed at the time.”
When Chance played soccer through most of junior high, he became accustomed to scoring all the goals, not keeping them out of his own net. The adjustment didn’t take long, though.
“It kind of helped because I was on the team as a freshman, and you pretty much have to do everything you’re asked to,” Chance said. “You have to sacrifice everything.”
Pendleton said Chance displayed a unique passion for soccer. While kids often come out for the team just to play, it means more to Chance. And it shows on the field.
“He has a better understanding about what’s happening on the field than 99 percent of the people he plays with and against,” Pendleton said.
Chance, who is just a junior this season, said he’d like to play attacking midfielder next year. It’s the position he feels he is best at, but if Pendleton needs him to play somewhere else, that’s OK, too.
“I wouldn’t mind it as long as it’s for the benefit of the team,” Chance said.
Wherever Chance winds up next season, he’ll likely be one of the best in the conference at that position.
“Probably by the time he’s finished playing as a senior, he’s going to be the best player to play here,” Pendleton said.