WORTHINGTON -- In a town that’s becoming well-known around the state for producing excellent young boy soccer players, Worthington summer coaches Mike Semere and Kody Honius say the sport remains in tip-top shape.
Semere’s U14 team is preparing for the state tournament July 19 and 20 in Coon Rapids. Likewise, Honius’s U16 team is doing the same.
“These guys are like the fresh crew coming up,” said Honius on Tuesday as his U16 squad loosened up for practice at the local middle school fields. “We had the group that graduated (high school) last year, and now we have these guys coming up. I think this is a good group to kind of build up the chemistry with in the next few years, to build things up for the high school season.”
The U16 players, said Honius, really love the game of soccer. The U14 team, said Semere, have a “hunger” for the sport.
Worthington’s U16 team has sustained only one regular season setback. This week the players are preparing in earnest for the state tournament where they’ll open at Coon Rapids beginning 8:30 p.m. July 19 against an opponent yet to be named. They play an 11:30 a.m. contest on the 20th.
The goal, said Honius, is to take it one game at a time, and to apply continual pressure so as not to allow their opponents chances to score -- and also to take advantage of every chance Worthington has to score.
Oh yes. And there’s one more goal. To win the tournament.
Leading U16 players include center-back player Isaiah Noble, midfielder Francisco Esteban, goalkeeper-midfielder Osmin Pineda Ferrera, attacker Peda Zeba, and three other players who played for the U18 this year but are young enough to play U16 as well. They are Ricky Rodriguez, Bradley Soto and Guadalupe Padilla.
Rodriguez provides the U16 team with an experienced goalkeeper. Noble is an outstanding defensive player. Esteban has exceptional speed and possesses outstanding playmaking ability. Pineda Ferrera exhibits fine ball control and is also a good shooter. Zeba’s speed, hustle and shot-making ability blend in well with his teammates.
The U16 has lacked depth this year, but with the addition of the U18 players the squad appears well positioned for state play.
Quickly this summer, the team showed Honius that it’s ready both mentally and physically for any challenge. They faced a tough opener against Faribault, but came out hard right at the start.
“That’s when I kind of knew these guys would be ready to face anybody they were put up against,” Honius said.
The U14 team is 8-2 this summer, and the players have made Semere proud.
“They’ve got hunger for the sport. So they’re organized. They’re a good group of kids,” said the coach.
Top players include midfielder-forward Jonathan Benegas, midfielder Jose Chavez, defender Kaine Vela and forward-defender Hugo Garcia. Semere describes Benegas as gifted and strong. Chavez and Garcia are team leaders. Vela has improved greatly from last year, his first with the program, and Semere proudly characterizes him as “a tough cookie.”
The team is young for its bracket (there are two 9-year-olds on the squad), so it will have its work cut out for it at the state tournament. But the players are notably talented and balanced, as Semere explained, “Our strength is actually defense this year, and a little bit on the offense.”