Joe Lupano is not the type of guy who draws attention to himself.
In fact, the Lyons Township High School soccer player actually revels in anonymity on an otherwise high-profile team.
Lupano is a two-year starting central defender for the Lions but his name is never mentioned in the press and he often goes overlooked even on his own team. The first time he was interviewed by a reporter was for this story.
“It’s nice to get recognition but it’s not a huge deal for me,” Lupano said. “I really don’t mind not getting noticed. It’s fine that I’m not getting attention as long as we’re winning.”
The Lions have done a lot of winning in recent years. Since Lupano, a 6-0, 145-pound senior, joined the starting lineup in 2012, they have gone 26-6-4 and allowed just less than one goal per game.
Offensive stalwarts such as Cristian Sanchez and Frankie Kocimski have garnered most of the headlines this season and Lupano isn’t even the most well-known defender on the team: senior twins Spiro and Peter Kass are the sons of Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass.
“He’s that cool, calm personality and he’s not looking for accolades,” LTHS coach Paul Labbato said. “He’s just not. He’s a do-his-work kind of kid. He’s going to get back there and he’s going to do what needs to be done.”
That is a vital quality to have on the back line but finding that type of talent is easier said than done. It comes naturally to Lupano.
“He knows that no one is going to care and I think that’s part of his personality,” Labbato said. “He’s just not walking around like, ‘hey, it’s me, I’m a great defender.’ But he is. He really is a great defender and he does the right things at the right times.”
A prime example of that occurred Sept. 28 against rival Hinsdale Central when he blocked a shot off the goal line after goalie David Fiflis was caught out of the net and down on the ground. The Lions trailed 2-0 at the time and wound up losing 3-0, but the great play gave the Lions hope.
“That really allowed us to [stay close],” Labbato said. “If we [come back], that would be the story: the effort that he had in that last moment to try to preserve a 2-0 deficit.”
“That’s the first thing I try to do [in that situation], just get on the line,” Lupano said. “Chances are you won’t be able to block it but sometimes you get lucky. I kind of screwed up at the start of that play so I felt like I had to do something.”
Lupano has felt that way for several years now. He started playing soccer when he was 6 but became a full-time defender in middle school.
“I played basically anywhere on the field when I was younger,” Lupano said. “When I was playing midfielder or forward I felt helpless when the ball got behind the defense. I felt like I needed to be back there, so I went to center back and I’ve been there ever since.”
Lupano scored a 30 on his ACT and he brings that intelligence to the field. The Lions have 17 shutouts the past two seasons and that is no accident.
“You’ve got to be smart,” Lupano said. “It’s more mental than anything else. Every time before I get to the ball I have to have a decision made about where I’m going to go and what I’m going to do with it. You have to be able to make good clearing passes and get the ball out of the there.”
Despite his unselfish attitude, Lupano is like every other player in that he loves to score goals. He had two last year but none so far this season.
“When you score as a defender it is the best feeling,” Lupano said. “It’s a [defender’s] dream to score.”
But Lupano knows his main role is to dash opponent’s dreams of scoring. He’s very good at that, even if no one hears about it.