Enlightened, deeper West soccer squad looks forward to fall season
An infusion of new talent, including several former Worthington Trojans, adds to the Minnesota West men's soccer team's optimism for 2022
WORTHINGTON -- One season removed from the 2021 beginning of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College men’s soccer program, the Bluejays are looking to make a bigger impact in 2022.
Last year was a learning experience, and head coach Jordan Balster said the usual growing pains went along with it. This year the goal is to become more aggressive as several new recruits add to the team’s depth.
“We’ve added a team in our own conference (Alexandria Tech), so there’s five teams,” Balster said. “Last year there were four, so all of them made the conference tournament. This year they’re still only going to have four. So first, we want to compete to try to get into the conference tournament again.”
Then … if all goes well during the first part of the season, the Jays might feel confident enough to shoot for a conference title.
The first regular season game is Saturday, Aug. 20, at Worthington’s Trojan Field against Northwestern JV.
There are 20-odd players on the team today. Leaders include sophomores Gio Cano (midfielder), Ricky Rodriguez (goalkeeper), and freshmen Ulises Barrera (midfielder) and Dalen Gonzalez (center-back).
Cano, a native Californian who comes to Worthington by way of Japan, can play several positions and is as athletic as he is even-tempered. Rodriguez, a Worthington High School graduate, was an all-conference goalie last year for West and Balster said of him, “He kept us in a lot of games, and kept us closer in some others that we lost.”
Barrera and Gonzalez are also WHS grads. The hard-working, technically savvy Barrera is an energetic player who has a high motor all over the field. Gonzalez is another lively presence. Both were captains for the Trojans.
There are 14 former Worthington Trojans on the squad, so it’s no surprise that Balster -- who was once an assistant coach with the high school program -- predicts his Bluejays will be capable on defense. Besides winning consistently, WHS has been known statewide for its defensive prowess.
“A big part of it has always been having the teamwork, defending together,” Balster said. “Yeah, there’s only one ball in the game, but everybody’s got to be turned on it at every second of the game.”
Now that the Jays have a year of college experience to fall back on, Balster said he’d like to see that knowledge applied to an aggressive offensive approach.
“We’ve got some guys with some good speed this year, a lot of midfielder presence. Guys like Edgar Carrillo -- great speed, able to take players one-on-one on the wings,” said the coach. “If we see an opportunity, we want to take it.”
Minnesota West also has players from Brazil and Germany, and another was expected to show up soon from England. That’s an eclectic mix, but the bottom line is that Balster wants rival teams to see that they’re going to face an improved product this fall.
“I think they’re going to know it’s pretty much an entirely new team,” he said. He hopes it will be a more consistent team, too.
“It was for sure a learning experience (last year),” he explained. “We had some good games, we had some bad games. Obviously we learned a lot.”