Boys soccer: Worthington advances in Section 2A
WORTHINGTON -- Thursday’s 4-1 victory over Mankato Loyola in the quarterfinals of the Section 2A boys soccer tournament didn’t thrill the crowd assembled at Buss Field. But it was good enough to propel WHS into Tuesday’s semifinals.
“A win is a win,” said Trojans head coach Smitty Ektnitphong. “I didn’t like a lot of it. The passing was poor. I like the energy, but we had to beat this team three times this year. They had five or six guys back all the time.”
The contest was moved from Trojan Field due to poor field conditions at Trojan Field. A stiff breeze blew from the south side of Buss Field -- which has no natural wind breaks -- to the north side. Worthington, the top seed of the section, faced the wind in the first half and was only able to gain a 2-1 halftime advantage against the eighth-seeded Crusaders.
In two other meetings during the regular season, WHS defeated Loyola 10-4 and 8-0. It’s difficult to dominate an opponent a third time in the same season, and Thursday’s triumph was nowhere near a domination. Still, it moved the Trojans to 16-0-1 while ending the Crusaders’ season at 10-6-1.
“Coach wanted us against the wind just to see what they got,” said Worthington’s outstanding junior defenseman, Chris Cerda. “And we did pretty good, we were ahead 2-1. But we thought we should have been up a little more. I think we weren’t as focused. Because we had a week off (due to a first-round tournament bye). Hopefully we can play a little better on Tuesday.”
Ektnitphong said his team missed too many opportunities in front of the Loyola goal.
With 19:22 showing on the clock, Worthington tallied its first goal as the top goal scorer in Minnesota Class A, Jon Keodouangsy, managed to get free with the ball behind the defense. He scored it cleanly on a short punch shot.
Then with 4:02 remaining, teammate Tony Martinez attempted a long kick from the left side about 25 yards away from the net. It sailed beautifully into the upper right corner, lightly kissing off the pole.
Only 30 seconds later, Mankato Loyola secured its only goal of the game on a shot by senior forward Matheus Zolla.
The first half might have ended in a tie had not senior WHS goalkeeper Sander Diaz deflected a short point-blank shot with 22 seconds remaining.
Worthington fans had to wonder how much better their team would perform in the second half with the wind at their backs. Better, as it turned out, but still not in a dominant way.
“We wanted to get them tired in the first half and then dominate them with goals in the second half. But it didn’t go that way,” Cerda said.
It wasn’t until the 16:49 mark of the second half that Worthington got its next goal on a header from Eh Kyoo, just a few feet in front of the Loyola net. It came from a corner kick, and it touched several WHS players before Kyoo finally got it to go.
Just a little more than three minutes later, Victor Alvarez punched a short penalty kick untouched into the right side of the Loyola net for goal No. 4.
Meanwhile, Diaz looked lonely in goal for most of the second half as Loyola rarely put pressure on him. He was replaced later in the half by his heir-apparent, junior Ben Lopez, who made a brilliant diving save with 40 seconds remaining.
“First half, we didn’t play the way we usually do. You could just tell,” said Diaz after the game. “Our passing wasn’t as good as we usually do. … But in the second half we started to get a groove on.”
The wind, said Ektnitphong, was a factor in the game.
“Sometimes you just don’t know which direction it’s going to go. Because when you pass it, it just gets hung.”
Mankato Loyola 1 0 -- 1
Worthington 2 2 -- 4