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Youth soccer: Worthington FC brings home the hardware in summer campaign

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington FC probably needs to build a bigger trophy case. Space has to be at a premium after the youth soccer program's wildly successful 2017 summer campaign. Both the 17-and-under and 18-and-under squads won their three bigges...

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Worthington FC U17 player Mooday Wah shows off his skill as he runs by a defender in a scrimmage on Monday at Buss Field in Worthington. (Adam Watts / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington FC probably needs to build a bigger trophy case. Space has to be at a premium after the youth soccer program’s wildly successful 2017 summer campaign. Both the 17-and-under and 18-and-under squads won their three biggest competitions -- their league championship, the Burnsville Cup, and the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association State Championships.
Both teams finished off their summer seasons with state championships on Saturday in Shakopee. The U18s defeated Eagan 3-0 in the state championship, while the U17s defeated Monticello 4-0. It was the second-consecutive state title for the U17s after winning last year as U16s.
“We won Burnsville, our league and state,” U18 player David Santos said. “We finally won all three. Before we’ve either won the league or won Burnsville. But to get all three -- to win all three of them, that feels great.”
The shutout victory over Eagan in the final was a bit of redemption for the U18 squad after a pair of performances they felt were subpar in pool play, including a 3-3 draw with Eagan and a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Westonka.
“We were off, we weren’t communicating, we weren’t touching well, we weren’t passing well,” Santos said. “We were just off. And Eagan took advantage of that. We’d mess up and they’d be ready to counter us. And to finally show that we’re a great team and this is how we play. Yeah, it pays off to show we can beat them.”
But in the end, it was a rewarding end to the season for a group that has been playing together, trying to win a state since they were 11 or 12 years old.
“This year especially -- last year, we came up a little short,” U18 goalie Sander Diaz said. “So it is good to know that we finally made it, especially with the talent that we have on our team. It’s just good to bring that title home after so long.”
For the U17s, the second state title run was a dominant one, as they won their four state tournament games by a combined score of 20-1.
“We’ve been playing together since we were 11 or 12 and we’ve won a lot together,” U17 player Mooday Wah said. “We just play together better and better.”
For a large portion of the state championship game, the U17 squad had to play without one of its starting forwards, Jon Keodouangsy. Early in the game, he had a 1-on-1 with the goalie, and the keeper ran out of the goal and grabbed his leg and took him down. And when he tried to get up, his foot got stepped on. He missed some time, but was able to return later in the game after his team held a lead.
“I had to sit out and nobody thought I was going to go back in after that,” Keodougansy said. “I wanted to go back in because it was my last game playing with this team. This is my last game this year. We’re all going our separate ways after this year. Some people are going to quit soccer to focus on other things and some of us are going to keep trying to play soccer and try out for clubs. I wanted to play one more game with them and go for a state title.”
In Keodouangsy’s absence, fellow forward Eh Kyoo stepped up and scored a pair of goals.
“I told him Jon is out so you’re going to have to step up and help the team,” U17 coach Jose Euceda said. “And he stepped up and scored two goals.”
As sweet as it is to win a state title, most of the players agree that the biggest win of the season came at the Burnsville Cup -- especially for the U17 players who were competing up an age bracket against 18-year olds. In that tournament, the U17s saw some of their only adversity of the season after losing to REV -- which features players from Rosemount, Apple Valley and Eagan -- in pool play. But they got their shot at revenge in the tournament final and beat REV 2-1.
“It pushed us,” Wah said. “After we lost 4-0 to REV, that pushed us to work hard, to defend hard and give everything for the finals.”
The success on the field, the players say, is due to the bonds they have built across years building relationships on the field and off of it.
“We’ve stuck together since middle school, hanging out as friends and as teammates,” U17 player Anthony Euceda said. “We have fun with each other on and off the field. Our communication on the field is better because we communicate off the field.”
“We’re very close as a team,” Keodouangsy said. “We’re not even teammates, we’re basically family, brothers. We hang out with each other away from the soccer field and on the soccer field. There’s not even a part of our lives without doing stuff together as a family.”

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Worthington's Jon Keodouangsy tracks down a ball before making a run on goal during a scrimmage on Monday at Buss Field in Worthington. (Adam Watts / The Globe)

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