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Youth soccer: 17U team earns key draw with New Ulm

DOUG WOLTER/DAILY GLOBE Worthington 17U soccer player Andrew Johnson (center) is congratulated by teammates after he scored a late goal to pull even with New Ulm 3-3 Wednesday night. The draw preserved Worthington’s lead in the Southwest Division and earned it a bye in the upcoming postseason tournament.

WORTHINGTON — Teams don’t play for draws, but a draw suited the Worthington boys 17U soccer team just fine Wednesday night.

An Andrew Johnson goal with five minutes remaining in the game gave Worthington a 3-3 draw with New Ulm, which clinched first place in the Southwest Division and earned the team a bye in the first round of the district tournament.

“I was going down the right side. I saw that the cross was not there. I cut to my left foot, saw the opening and took it,” said Johnson about his 18-yard game-tying goal — his second goal of the game.

Worthington led New Ulm by just one point in the division going into the teams’ final contest of the regular season. With the draw, Worthington moves to 7-1-2 on the year.

“It was a tough game. (New Ulm) improved a lot,” said Worthington head coach Juan Flores. “It was fun to watch and fun to coach. New Ulm is a lot more disciplined, a lot tougher.”

Worthington outscored visiting New Ulm 2-1 in the first half, getting the first goal of the game on a corner kick as Luis Gutierrez redirected the kick with a header. New Ulm scored next, but Worthington re-took the lead less than a minute later when Johnson found the upper left corner of the net on a long kick.

Johnson had just re-entered the game seconds earlier.

Could it be that New Ulm — a town of German heritage, might have entered Wednesday’s showdown inspired by Germany’s 7-1 World Cup victory over Brazil on Tuesday? Regardless, the visitors put pressure on Worthington early in the second half and scored the next two goals — on two short kicks directly in front of the Worthington net.

Much time passed before Johnson tied it up.

Worthington placed first in its division last year and qualified for state. But the team didn’t go far.

This year, the locals hope to return and go farther. Flores believes the boys have what it takes to win a state championship.

“Our goal is still the same. Go to state, and take it one game at a time. We have the team, we have the talent to win state,” he explained.

“The communication is key to this team. And the ball movement. The finishing,” Flores said, turning his attention to Wednesday’s performance. “They proved that no game is done until the last whistle blows.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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