WORTHINGTON -- It happened in a moment, a flash, in a split-second of time in a match that had already taken nearly 100 minutes of clock and appeared destined to come down to penalty kicks to decide a winner.
With 3:05 remaining in the second 10-minute sudden-death overtime, Bloomington Kennedy senior forward Jesus Ciriaco Mundo took control of a centering pass a few yards in front of the Worthington goal and kicked it toward the net. Worthington goalkeeper Ricardo Rodriguez managed to get a touch on it, but it trickled past and into the net.
The Eagles, the third seed of the 2020 Section 2A boys soccer tournament, suddenly and dramatically prevailed against the top-seeded Worthington Trojans Saturday afternoon at Trojan Field, 1-0, in the championship game. Sudden victory for the visitors. And sudden calamity for a WHS team determined to win the title on their own field.
“I saw my player, Omar (Artola) down the line,” said Ciriaco Mundo after his team received the first-place trophy. “And I saw a little opening, and I just popped in.”
The Trojans took an 11-0-1 record into the finale on a cold weekend afternoon. Bloomington Kennedy, which defeated second-seeded Mankato West to win the chance to challenge the Trojans, proved to be a team similar to their Worthington counterparts. Fast, aggressive and intelligent, they matched the Trojans athletically throughout. If there was a difference in the first two halves, it was that in the first half Kennedy did a better job with first touches, but the Trojans’ sheer speed and athleticism allowed them to play the Eagles to a standstill. In the second half, WHS increased its intensity. But again, there were no goals for either team.
“We were very fortunate. That was a tough team. It just came down to that one moment, and that was it,” Ciriaco Mundo said.
Worthington’s fine junior defender, Isaiah Noble, tried to understand what happened afterwards.
“Maybe towards the first half we really weren’t playing our game. We weren’t talking much, we weren’t in rhythm. But we put the pressure on them in the second half. We had quite a few chances,” he said. “It’s disappointing after all the work we put in, especially right here in a home game.”
Said head coach Juan Flores: “This one stings. And it’s going to sting for a long time.”
Bloomington went right into its offense to begin the contest, anticipating well and intercepting several passes Worthington intended for itself. Later in the first half, the Trojans seemed to warm to the occasion, putting the visitors on the defensive. But still no goals. On defense, both teams were quick and aware.
A fired-up WHS squad did, indeed, have several scoring chances in the second half. Early in the half, a Trojan corner kick resulted in two shots on goal that brought gasps from the home fans. At the 27-minute mark a free kick by senior Jesus Lozano was well-placed but blocked at the net.
Ciriaco Mundo nearly scored eight minutes later on a beautiful high, arching shot that hit the top bar and bounced away.
With 7:21 to go, Worthington freshman Jonathan Banegas possessed the ball in the open field and passed to an open teammate, but the pass was too hard. With 4:49 to go, Banegas connected squarely with a header, but it was just wide. Then at 1:08 Banegas, again, ran free between two defenders and made a solid kick, just wide right.
Both teams had hopeful scoring chances in the first OT period, but the defenses were too sound to end the game there. Finally, late in the second OT, Ciraco Mundo’s score resulted in wild celebrations by the Eagles and stunned silence by the Trojans, many who sunk to their knees in disbelief.
“We had many chances that we didn’t capitalize on,” said Worthington’s outstanding goalkeeper, Rodriguez. “I think if we played our best, we would have won. No disrespect to them, though. They played a hell of a game.”
“I think we started real slow in the first half, our midfield was pushed back by their attack. But I think in the second half, the last 15 minutes, we were much more aggressive,” he said. “(Kennedy) got tired, so we took advantage of that, switching our guys in and out and really capitalizing on that and using our speed. … We couldn’t get the ball into the net.”
Flores said his team didn’t control the ball well in the first half. The Trojans weren’t passing well, and they spent too much time on the wrong side of the field.
“I just wish we could’ve played like we did the last 15 minutes, for the whole game,” he said.
Still, Flores praised his seniors for an excellent season. And he said that, with many juniors returning next year to lead, the Trojans should be ready to make a strong challenge again in 2021.