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Knuckles scores four goals in Trojans' boys soccer win

Boys soccer
Worthington High School soccer player Mir Gossom (22) makes a kick while defended by John Rodezno of Mankato Loyola Thursday night in Worthington. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- If there was any question where the goals were coming from this year, Eric Knuckles answered the question Thursday night.

Knuckles scored four times to lead the Worthington boys soccer team to a 5-2 season-opening victory over Mankato Loyola.

“I was coming into this game kind of nervous,” Knuckles said. “Coach was drilling into us we have to be better. My shot isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, it could always be better. All the goals I had, I want to thank my teammates for setting me up and it just had to be better.”

The Trojans are tasked with replacing talented scorer Jon Keodouangsy, who graduated last year. On Thursday, Knuckles proved he was up to the task.

“I feel pressure,” Knuckles said. “But at the end of the day, I have to be my own man. I have to play my way. I can learn from Jon and take techniques from Jon, but in the end, I have to be my own man.”

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It was slow going early for the Trojans, who started just one senior -- Loddy Thepmontry -- and three juniors.

“It was definitely a slow start,” WHS head coach Juan Flores said. “I think for a lot of guys, this is their first time playing a varsity game and stepping on Trojan Field. It’s a different atmosphere when you’re stepping onto this field. It’s a different feeling. I think it had a lot to do with nerves, but we got through it.”

Edgar Carrillo started the scoring for Worthington 22 minutes into the game. He had a shot from the left side that was deflected by the Loyola goalie, but found its way into the net.

But it didn’t take long for the Crusaders to answer. Derick Vivas scored a minute later to tie the score.

“The first 15 minutes we were doing good and then after we scored, we settled down and let the other team have their way with us,” Knuckles said. “I don’t think that can happen. If we’re playing teams like Mankato West and teams like that, they might take advantage of that and we might find ourselves down.”

However, Knuckles got on the board to break the tie. With nine minutes until halftime, he took a shot that went over the outstretched arm of the keeper to give WHS a lead. That advantage went to 3-1 before halftime as Knuckles scored following a corner kick from Mir Gossom.

Loyola scored first after halftime on a Wilber Alexander free kick.

But Knuckles put the game away with a pair of goals. He scored following a free kick before Gossom set him up again. Gossom took the ball up the left side and crossed it to a free-running Knuckles, who headed it in the goal.

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“Mir was setting me up,” Knuckles said. “I saw Mir and I knew he was going to cross and I knew it had to go in the goal.”

WHS finished with 20 shots on goal, while goalie Ricky Rodriguez stopped six shots.

“We started out strong in the second half. We started pressuring and every time one of their guys got the ball, we pressured, we were there and we were taking the ball away. We were getting the possession back,” Flores said. “We have to progress and take it one game at a time. As we go forward, we can only get better from here.”

The Trojans will have an early-season test on Tuesday when they host St. Peter.

“This year we’re the underdog,” Knuckles said. “Teams think they are going to walk all over us because of the players we lost. We have to be better. We’re a young, talented team. I think we can go far.”

Mankato Loyola 1 1 -- 2

Worthington 3 2 -- 5

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