PREP BOYS' SOCCER: Cardinals hand Worthington first loss this year
WORTHINGTON -- Monday's boys' soccer game between Worthington and Fairmont had all the right pieces in place to be a very close contest.
It didn't disappoint.
With both team's fighting to maintain perfect records on the season, it was the Cardinals that managed to earn a narrow 1-0 victory by hanging tough after scoring a goal midway through the first half.
"It wasn't our day," WHS head coach Vilath Lovan said. "It seems like when the ball came to us we'd try to kick it and it would always go out of bounds and stuff... It looked pretty even on both sides, it was just one goal that made the difference."
Fairmont took the early momentum in the game, with the Trojans having to wait until 8:43 into the contest to get their first attempt on goal -- a powerful shot by Thun Lay that sailed high over the bar.
It was a theme that would continue for WHS throughout the first half, with the team launching a total of seven goal-scoring opportunities well over the crossbar prior to halftime.
The Cardinals took the lead 21:45 into the game on a perfectly taken corner kick by Grant Becker.
Becker's cross travelled a perfect distance for teammate Joe Driano, who smashed a header straight at the Trojan goal.
Worthington goalkeeper Ricardo Maldonado got his fingers on the shot, but the ball was hit with too much power for him to stop it.
"I told the guys not to give them too many corners, they're just taller and are going to head it in," Lovan said. "When you play against guys that are taller than us you don't want to give them a corner."
The Trojans' best chance of the first half came when Victor Meza rifled a shot at the Fairmont goal with just more than eight minutes left in the half, but FHS goalkeeper Matt Tennyson deflected the shot over the bar.
Fairmont's Lucas Miles had a breakaway chance to score with 30 seconds remaining before the break, but Darwin Carrillo chased him down and forced Miles' shot to miss wide-left to keep the score at 1-0.
The Cardinals almost scored in identical fashion to their previous goal when Becker found Driano on a corner kick 9:15 into the second half, but there were enough WHS defenders in the way to repel Driano's powerful header.
The Trojans were able to create a number of drives forward in the remaining minutes -- keeping the fans in the crowd on the edge of their seats -- but they weren't able to create an equalizer.
Worthington's best chance came with 16:37 left in the game on a masterfully taken free kick by Luis Echeverria, which hit the underside of the crossbar in the top-right corner of the of the goal but somehow didn't go in.
Maldonado kept WHS' hopes alive with a phenomenal save off of a Fairmont breakaway with 9:09 remaining, one of a number of clutch saves he made in the game.
"Their keeper played really well, I compliment him," FHS head coach Jeff Kot said. "He had three or four point-blank shots and came up with some nice saves."
The Trojans put together a frenzy at the two-minute mark with a number of consecutive shots, but ended up losing to have their record fall to 5-1 on the season.
Fairmont improved to 7-0 with the win.
"(Fairmont and Worthington) always have good games," Kot said. "Both teams play good soccer, nobody's out to hurt anybody, we enjoy playing them. It's always going to be a battle, just like when they come to our place it's going to be a battle."
The two teams will have a rematch in Fairmont on Oct. 3.
With an experienced lineup made up almost entirely of juniors and seniors, the Cardinals showed impressive depth at every position during the game.
"Teams like Mankato and New Ulm, many of them have one or maybe two good players that you have to stop," Kot said. "We've got five guys that have scored six or seven goals. It's hard to just try to stop one of our guys."
The Cardinals will look to continue their perfect start with road games against Waseca (Thursday) and Southwest Christian (Saturday) this week.
Worthington won't have much time to rest before playing another tough opponent today when Mankato West comes to town today.
Kickoff will be at 6:45 p.m.
"The way our team is right now, we've got another game tomorrow and we've just got to play on," Lovan said. "Mankato West is a tough team to beat, but when they come here we always play them well. It's going to be just like today, it depends who makes a mistake."
Fairmont 1 0 -- 1
Worthington 0 0 -- 0