Anthony Parillo absorbed an ego hit to do what he thought was right for the Kaneland boys soccer team.
Parillo’s goal-scoring dipped but his value to the Knights soared this season, earning the senior midfielder Kane County Chronicle Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors.
To compensate for the graduation of Alex Gil, Parillo transitioned from an attacking midfielder in the past to a defensive-minded midfield role this season.
“When we had some scoring opportunities, I pushed up more for that, but I always maintained a good distance to where if I needed to be, I could get back quick,” Parillo said. “I was mostly looking to play the ball up to people so they could score or cross the ball in.”
Parillo led the Knights with 18 assists and “had all the intangibles and soccer knowledge expected of an elite soccer player,” according to Scott Parillo, Kaneland’s coach and Anthony’s father. Scott Parillo said his 5-foot-10 son was especially remarkable winning balls through the air against players several inches taller.
“There were so many coaches who said ‘Why is No. 5 always winning these?’ ” Scott Parillo said. “These are against guys 6-2, 6-3, and he just kept winning them.”
But the most impressive maneuver Anthony Parillo made, arguably, came before the season even started, when he agreed to transition roles after scoring a team-high 19 goals for the Knights as a junior.
This season, that goal total was one-third of that, mostly by design.
“I think it takes great maturity to do that, especially last year when he scored so many goals and this year he was asked to do something completely different, and he was OK with that,” Scott Parillo said. “He wanted to win. That’s what he wanted us to do. He wanted to do that for the team.”
Still, Parillo’s distributing skills loomed large in Kaneland’s attack, and he also occasionally reminded opponents of his thunderous striking potential, such as with a memorable, one-time blast against Sycamore in a Class 3A regional semifinal victory.
Parillo said it wasn’t until the Knights’ next and final match – a 1-0 loss to Burlington Central in the Sycamore Regional championship match – that he felt his first, major dose of frustration.
“I really wanted to get up and try to score some goals, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
The Knights finished the season 10-6-4, continuing a program upswing in recent years that coincides with Parillo’s four-year, varsity career.
A two-time all-state selection, Parillo was a National Soccer Coaches Association of the Year All-American nominee, advancing to the final 60 players chosen nationwide.
“Unfortunately he didn’t make the final 40, but it’s throughout the country – he’s an elite player,” Scott Parillo said. “You’re talking about college coaches, high school coaches from around the country that vote on these players. Obviously, he was doing something right to make it to that final 60 players. It’s truly remarkable.”
Parillo plans to take several college visits this winter, and his dad joked he might have to sell one of his other children to be able to afford the airfare. He turned more serious when discussing how gratifying it’s been to coach his team-first son.
“I’m very happy he ended up being as great a player as he did, but it was a lot of fun, and I hope a lot of other coaches get to [have that experience],” he said.