Minnesota West men's soccer continues to improve
The Minnesota West men's soccer team is finding it difficult to win games, but performances are improving
WORTHINGTON -- For all the Minnesota West Community and Technical College men’s soccer players this year -- including 13 Worthington High School graduates -- the transition from high school to college has been an eye-opener.
Head coach Jordan Balster warned them.
“At the beginning of the season, I was just trying to get across to the guys that this is a different game,” he said Wednesday night, less than an hour after his Bluejays fell to 0-9 on the season with a 6-2 setback against Riverland at Trojan Field.
“I thought we could compete, for sure, but we gotta just play because these teams are gonna be good. For sure,” Balster said.
This is just the second year of competitive men’s soccer at Minnesota West. Last year there were between 13 and 15 players on the team. This year the Jays started with 20. They’re now down to 16 due to the inevitable self-winnowing of bodies that happens in college athletics.
A large group of former Worthington High School players entered the two-year college system in the off-season, which was a sure-fire boon to the West program. The Trojans have been outstanding in boys soccer over the last several years, qualifying for a couple of state tournaments in fact. But as Balster said, moving from excellence at the high school level to excellence at the college level requires hard work -- and a lot of patience.
No doubt, the Bluejays are competitive. They’re quick, and they’re active -- very much similar to what fans saw when watching the Trojans play. Some of their 2022 college losses have occurred in tight games, such as a 3-1 loss to Alexandria Tech, a 2-0 loss to Riverland, and a 3-2 loss to Lake Superior College.
They scored twice against Riverland on Wednesday, both goals coming in the second half. Former Trojan Ulises Barrera scored the first. Vinurshn Suveendralingam of Bad Soden, Germany, scored the second.
Speaking of the 6-2 setback, Balster hinted at some of the issues that his Bluejays have been struggling with.
“I felt like I saw two different teams tonight,” he explained. “The first 10 minutes of the game, we played pretty well. We created a few opportunities and played at a pretty good tempo. Then after that, Riverland responded, moving really well and keeping us away from the ball.”
Balster said the Bluejays finished the first half well, but they still trailed 3-0 heading into the second half. There, they focused their efforts on movement, attempting to apply more pressure on the Blue Devils to turn the ball over more often. But the Austin-based school scored two quick goals for a 5-0 lead.
“We pretty much took ourselves out of the game at that point,” Balster said.
To their credit, the Jays still fought, scoring twice.
“We’ve shown that we can be competitive with these teams,” said the Minnesota West mentor. “The quality of players we have is good. When we have everyone healthy and we have everybody at these games, we can compete with these teams, and we’ve showed it.”
Early in the season, Balster said his team had been experiencing difficulty trying to score (West has scored just six total goals this fall). After changing some formations, the offense has improved. The squad has been able to create more opportunities for themselves.
“Now we’re getting more chances. We have to put them in the net, obviously,” Balster said.
As a coach, he places a lot of emphasis on his back line. But by pressuring their opponents more, they don’t have to be quite as perfect on defense. They can, in other words, open up the gates.
Minnesota West’s next game is Monday, Oct. 3, at Dordt JV. The next home game is Oct. 5 against Anoka-Ramsey.