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West soccer team plays well, nearly secures first win

The Minnesota West men's soccer team led a strong Anoka-Ramsey team 1-0 at halftime Wednesday night in Worthington, but ultimately fell 3-2.

Minnesota West men's soccer goalkeeper Angel Flores blocks a shot by Anoka-Ramsey Wednesday night in Worthington. Bluejays Dalen Gonzalez (17),  Zachary Finnesgard (22) and Golden Ram Uzair Ahmed (6) react to the play.
Minnesota West men's soccer goalkeeper Angel Flores blocks a shot by Anoka-Ramsey Wednesday night in Worthington. Bluejays Dalen Gonzalez (17), Zachary Finnesgard (22) and Golden Ram Uzair Ahmed (6) react to the play.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- For two-thirds of Minnesota West’s men’s soccer game with Anoka-Ramsey Wednesday night, it appeared as if the Bluejays were well on their way to their first victory of the 2022 season.

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But the Golden Rams outscored the Jays 3-1 in the second half at Trojan Field in Worthington and ultimately prevailed 3-2.

Excellent goaltending by West sophomore Angel Flores and a first-half goal by freshman Dalen Gonzalez with 8:10 remaining till halftime gave the Bluejays a 1-0 lead. Anoka-Ramsey scored twice midway in the second half to take a 2-1 lead, but the Jays came right back with a score from freshman Edgar Carrillo with 11:18 remaining in the game to tie it 2-2. The winning goal came with just 2:43 left in the contest.

Minnesota West Blue Jays Aashish Raj from Kempston, England passes the ball down field pursued by Anoka-Ramsey Community College defensive back Dubad Abdinor (10) and Martin Garr (21) during a Wednesday evening game in Worthington.
The Minnesota West Bluejays' Aashish Raj passes the ball downfield pursued by Anoka-Ramsey defenders Dubad Abdinor (10) and Martin Garr (21).
Tim Middagh/The Globe

Anoka-Ramsey is one of the top teams in the conference. Minnesota West is 0-10 on the season, but the Bluejays certainly looked much better than that.

“In the first half, I think, we were just solid in the back. We played together the whole time. In the second half I feel we got tired. We just lost our legs in the end,” said Flores. “We just kind of beat ourselves on the defensive end. We couldn’t clear the ball, and there were weird bounces.”

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Head coach Jordan Balster, however, had much to praise.

“I was ecstatic in the first half, obviously. We really set out to make sure our defense was really compact -- make them work real hard if they were going to score a goal at all,” he said.

Minnesota West Blue Jay Omar Fernandez (32) pursued by Anoka-Ramsey Community College center back Jose Julian Maldonado is tripped up on his drive by Golden Rams goalkeeper Reece Lawlor (1) during a Wednesday evening game in Worthington.
Omar Fernandez (32) of Minnesota West is chased by Anoka-Ramsey's Jose Julian Maldonado and is tripped up on his drive by Golden Rams goalkeeper Reece Lawlor (1) Wednesday at Trojan Field.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

And the Rams did not, thanks in large part to Flores, who stopped two close-in shots two seconds apart with only five minutes gone in the first half. He made another great save at the 9:43 mark, then another less than a minute later as he dove to his left.

With 8:10 to go, West’s Omar Fernandez was tackled by A-R on a breakaway scoring opportunity about 18 yards in front of the Rams’ net. That resulted in a free kick, and Gonzalez confidently buried it.

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The second half opened with the Anoka-Ramsey goalie yelling to his teammates, “Boys, we gotta be more physical!” The Rams were certainly more aggressive, and they put consistent pressure on the Minnesota West end. It seemed only a matter of time before the visitors would score as the Jays, for several minutes, did a poor job of keeping the ball out of their kitchen.

But Flores continued to play at a high level. He stopped a point-blank shot just three feet directly in front of him with 37:53 to play. But with 19:09 remaining, at the end of a long free kick, the Rams scored on a short punch-in. They scored again at 17:11 to take the lead.

Carillo’s game-tying goal came on the heels of a rare second-half foray deep into Anoka-Ramsey territory. Zachary Finnesgard made a beautiful forward pass to his teammate, who scored while running toward the net, one-on-one with the goalie.

Anoka-Ramsey tallied the game-winner near the end of the game, just as fans began thinking ahead to a possible overtime.

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Flores said afterward that he thinks his team might finally get that elusive first victory in the next game, Monday at Minnesota West against Dordt JV. Whether or not that happens, he’s nevertheless certain that the Bluejays are a better team now than when they started.

“Chemistry-wise. We just know each other a lot better. We’ve just bonded. This is a great bunch of guys,” he said.

Anoka-Ramsey 0 3 -- 3

Minnesota West 1 1 -- 2

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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