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High expectations remain for unbeaten WHS boys soccer team

Nothing’s ever perfect, but the Worthington Trojans boys soccer team nearly always looks as close to perfection as a high school sports outfit can get.

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WORTHINGTON -- Nothing’s ever perfect, but the Worthington Trojans boys soccer team nearly always looks as close to perfection as a high school sports outfit can get.

Worthington moved to 11-0 on the season on Meet the Trojans Night Saturday at Trojan Field, and it was with an 8-1 score that they did it against the visiting Albert Lea Tigers. Scoring three goals in the first half and adding five in the second half -- including one unusual goal scored by the team’s most prolific offensive threat, sophomore Jonathan Banegas -- the Trojans eased to victory.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect. But what is?

“To be honest, we had a slow start,” senior midfielder Menkem Mehri said immediately after the game, drawing attention to too many shots attempted directly at the Albert Lea goalie instead of at the corners. “We had three goals and we kind of stopped. We were shooting, but not at the sides.

“We always talk about that we want to be better each day. We could’ve done way better passes. We could’ve challenged the ball more,” Mehri said.

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Worthington, ranked seventh in the Minnesota Class AA poll, got three goals from Banegas and two from Mehri in a near-perfect Saturday night weather. Elmer Guzman, Buoy Lia and Dalen Gonzalez scored single goals.

No matter how easily the Worthington boys soccer team wins matches, it has always been the case that whenever the program achieves great success -- first under head coach Smitty Ektnitphong and now under Juan Flores -- care is taken never to allow the Trojans to become too comfortable. No matter how dominant the team looks on the field, there is always something to work on -- something that needs improvement. And so it was Saturday night.

Flores said that although WHS controlled the ball most of the time, the players weren’t as sharp as they could have been.

“We gotta keep our focus. I think we relaxed a little bit too much at times. It’s just a matter of being consistent, of staying focused for 80 minutes,” he said.

Worthington scored its first goal against Albert Lea at the 31:41 mark of the first half as Banegas hit it firmly in an arc to the upper section of the net from 20 yards out. Guzman scored the second goal with 23:10 remaining. Lia controlled a deflected shot by a teammate and booted it into an open net with his left foot with 15:51 still to go till halftime.

The Trojans started fast in the second half. Barely more than a minute elapsed when Mehri sent a high kick from 30 yards away safely under the crossbar of the AL net. Then with 35:30 remaining, Banegas scored his second goal in an unusual way.

After making several nifty moves with the ball through traffic for a short shot on net, he missed and fell to the ground. As an Albert Lea player casually got into position to clear the ball out of the net area, Banegas lay on his back. A split-second before the ball was cleared, the plucky WHS sophomore saw the ball near his feet, so he flicked his leg out and scored the Trojans’ fifth goal of the night.

“I tried to go around the defender,” Banegas remembered. “I guess they tripped me and the ball came to me when I was laying there, and I hit it in the goal.”

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He smiled. “It seems that the ball always comes to me somehow. So I have to hit it into the goal,” he concluded.

Gonzalez scored his goal with 32:53 remaining in the game, on a free kick punch shot. Mehri scored his second goal a little more than a minute later, and Banegas had his hat trick at 27:29 on a low shot through traffic.

Albert Lea scored the last goal of the game. It happened at the 20:20 mark of the second half when reserve goalkeeper Eduardo Dominguez mis-timed his attempt to catch a long shot which bounced over his head and barely reached the net before he could run back to save it.

Albert Lea 0 1 -- 1

Worthington 3 5 -- 8

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Related Topics: SOCCER
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