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Boys soccer: Trojans trim defense-minded Fairmont, 1-0

WORTHINGTON -- The minutes were ticking down. The Worthington Trojans and the Fairmont Cardinals were playing toward a scoreless finish until, with 13:22 remaining in the second half, the deadlock was broken. On a corner kick, the ball curved to ...

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Worthington High School's Guadalupe Padilla and Fairmont's Matthew Anderson (10) contend for possession of the ball in Monday's boys soccer match in Worthington. The Trojans won the game, 1-0. (Aaron Haqen/The Globe)

 

 

WORTHINGTON -- The minutes were ticking down. The Worthington Trojans and the Fairmont Cardinals were playing toward a scoreless finish until, with 13:22 remaining in the second half, the deadlock was broken.

On a corner kick, the ball curved to the middle. Worthington sophomore Eric Knuckles positioned himself under the ball as it came down. He leaped, caught the ball perfectly on a header, and it sailed into the low left corner for a clean goal.

That was it. It was the lone goal scored in Monday night’s boys high school soccer game at Trojan Field, and Worthington came away with a hard-fought, nail-biting 1-0 victory over the Cards.

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“Honestly, it was a blur. I don’t know how it happened,” Knuckles said later.

He was reminded again of the play.

“I saw it coming, and I was thinking, ‘I just gotta get to it.”

Knuckles, who was moved up to the varsity in early September, made an immediate impact, scoring four goals in his first two games. His goal on Monday was a big one, however. It came two days after the Trojans lost their first game of the season, 1-0, at Austin on Saturday. The team was determined to make a statement on Monday, but a defense-minded Fairmont team played the locals to a near-standstill.

“We talked about having a chip on our shoulder after our first loss. ‘Cuz it showed the other teams out there that we’re mortal. We can be beat,” said Knuckles.

That certainly looked to be the case again on Monday as the Cardinals, who lost a 6-4 decision to the Trojans in the 2018 season opener, laid back on defense, packing the middle, and making it difficult for their rivals’ main goal scorer, Jon Keodouangsy, to operate offensively.

In the first half, the Trojans controlled most of the free balls and made many good connecting shots until they neared their desired goal. That’s when Fairmont’s defenders blunted the initiatives repeatedly.

Worthington wasn’t without scoring chances, however. With 11:45 on the first half game clock, Keodouangsy bent a nice shot from about 20 yards away that hit the bottom of the crossbar, and less than 30 seconds later Chris Cerda’s shot attempt point-blank just two feet in front of the goal went in -- but off-sides was called.

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The Trojans, frustrated in their offensive designs in the first half, came out aggressively to start the second half and again put pressure on the FHS goal. But the Cardinals regrouped quickly and put pressure on Trojan goalkeeper Ricardo Rodriguez as well.

Knuckles’ goal allowed WHS fans to breathe again. Anthony Euceda was credited with the assist.

Now the Trojans played defense. They kept their goal clean.

Knuckles said his team didn’t display the “positivity” that they needed in the first half. “The second half, after coach talked to us, we did better. But we still have a lot of work to do,” he explained.

Head coach Juan Flores gave credit to Fairmont.

“I think they played a good defensive game, pressing out two middle guys at the right time. I think that was their game plan, trying to take away the guys that score. And it worked for them,” he said.

Flores said the team talked about playing a strong game after the Austin loss.

“We thought we played very well on Saturday, and I wanted to transition that today,” he said. “But this team was a little more defensively than the team on Saturday. We’re going to see more and more of this, with teams trying to close out our scorers. What we gotta do it put guys in the right spot and get other guys to score for us, too.”

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Worthington is 11-1 on the season.

Fairmont 0 0 -- 0Worthington 0 1 -- 1

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As a pair of Fairmont players come up to challenge, Worthington's Jon Keodouangsy (right) keeps his eye on the ball Monday night. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)

Related Topics: BOYS SOCCER
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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