Keeping up with Minnehaha boys’ varsity soccer
A collection of weekly accounts on the dramatic victories, defeats, and injuries of the 2014 Redhawk boys’ varsity soccer season.
Week 1 (September 5) : Returning to the fields with a boom
Seven minutes before the halftime whistle, a Redhawk is pulled off the soccer field due to an excessive number of fouls. The center ref flails a red card in the air, and the team is penalized with playing the rest of the game one man down. Noted by a handful of team members, the challenge-ridden game against Apple Valley on August 29 has been the most exciting feat for the Minnehaha boys’ soccer team so far.
The team maintained a constant, well-matched tie against the large public school opponent for nearly all 90 minutes of the game. “Seventeen seconds left,” senior Jared Brown recalls. “Luis scores off of an amazing cross from Dahlman with 17 seconds left. There were two yellow cards given to two different people for ‘excessive celebration’.” Jared chuckles, shaking his head in remembrance. “We were all really excited. We were all in just one big pile down by the sideline.”
The perseverance, team effort and crazy energy displayed in the 2-1 triumph over Apple Valley is a legitimate look to what this group of boys have been training for going into the 2014 season. Graduating very few seniors from last season, the majority of the team consists of returning players. Like Jared, many of these players trained over the summer with their club soccer teams and by their own fitness workouts. Officially coached school practices started in the second week of August, prior to varsity tryouts a week later.
“We expected to be pretty much the same, but we’ve turned out to be better,” Jared stated. “It is really fun, as a goalie, I’ve honestly really hadn’t had to do much this year, my defense is really good. And it’s really cool and fun to watch how the team works together and some of the amazing plays that they do.”
The boys’ record is at 3-0-1; with a whopping victory of 7-0 against St. Croix Prep, a modest win of 2-1 against St. Croix Lutheran and a tie against Cristo Rey.
Week 2 (September 12) : A few dips in the inclining slope
Minnehaha’s boys’ varsity soccer team has balanced out their early winning record with the season’s first experiences of loss this past week, losing to Blake, Minneapolis South and Breck.
“I think we got a little over excited after we went 3 and 0, and our third win against Apple Valley,” right defender Bennett Pope contemplated. “We’ve had our dips, but I think it’s helped us to learn to not take anything for granted.”
Losing to Blake 2-1 on the home field Thurs., Sept. 4, was followed by a controversial loss to Minneapolis South on Super Soccer Saturday that following weekend.
While striding equally alongside their opponents, the Redhawks maintained a 1-1 tie against Minneapolis South on Super Soccer Saturday. With 11 seconds left the game was decided with a penalty kick given to the opponents.
“It was a little tough this year, with the bad call that kind of decided the match in the last seconds of the game,” Pope recalled.
Training started to be structured around the challenges the team has. “Linder has done a really good job about noticing what’s on the field and what we need to work on,” Pope said. “A big one is finishing and what we’re doing in the attacking third, and he’s tailored the drills that we do in practice to make that better.”
Reaching mid-season, the boys have enforced the groove of the team environment and the comradeship they have with each other. Some members refer to it as an exclusive brother-ship. “I enjoy the squad,” Pope says. “We just have a fun team dynamic. “We kind of have that balance between being very serious and getting stuff done, and also just having a lot of fun with messing around with each other.”
Reflecting on memorable team moments brings laughter. “Nobody expected it, and then he did a bicycle kick,” Pope responds while chuckling about sophomore Will Fletcher’s moves in practice. “We all just kinda fell over in amazement.”
Week 3 (September 18) : The keeper can’t be kept, fated with a season changing injury
The boys’ soccer team experienced their first 2014 season-changing injury when senior goalie Jared Brown collapsed in the keeper box on Saturday. While reaching for a flying ball, Brown’s planted foot hyper-extended backwards and twisted sideways.
“I heard and felt five pops in my knee,” Jared remembers. “I kept the ball, but I started rolling and screaming in pain.”
Waiting on MRI results, Brown’s present knowledge of his injury is that he has a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus.
His hope for the season is to continue to be a supportive influence on the team from the bench, as he will not be able to participate in the soccer season nor hockey in the winter. Brown’s injury greatly affects his teammates and their season.
“As a team and me specifically, it’s your worst fear to get injured,” sophomore goalkeeper Collin Steele reflects. “And to see it happen to someone in their senior year makes you feel for him.”
Immediately after seeing Brown hit the dirt, Steele pulled on his keeper jersey and gloves and started warming up. Sharing the goalie position with Brown since last year, the sophomore keeper is officially placed in net for the rest of the season.
As for the record after the influential game against St. Paul Academy, the boys pulled through with two wins in persevering efforts against Mounds Park and Providence Academy.
“We went through a stretch where we went 0-4-1 that really tested us as a team and we got better. Now we are starting our run to sections with two good wins,” Steele projects with high expectations.
Week 4 (September 26) : Won by not just one
The Redhawk boys’ soccer team has continued to deliver last-minute goals and dramatic comebacks to their 2014 season.
A showcase of crazy energy and determination was shown Sept. 18 on the Providence Academy home field, as the MA boys team battled against their opponent’s first-half goal. With one minute left in the game, junior forward Luis Mendez slotted in a cross from senior captain Peter Webster, tying the game at 1-1. Displaying his traditional goal celebration, Mendez sprinted at the assister and dynamic partner Webster while pointing at him in gratitude and recognition.
The overtime 2-1 win against Providence Academy was an influential feat for the team in their fight to maintain a victorious streak, and a first for the boys to win from a comeback.
Also contributing to the MA soccer stat book was a victory over a highly ranked state team of Richfield High School on Sept. 22. The efforts of all team members contributed to their second half feat, after keeping up with their opponents at a 1-1 tie throughout the first half.
“We came in the second half ready to put work in. We had defenders making runs all the way down the field, and had everyone putting some extra work in,” Mendez stated. “We knew that if we all worked together instead of depending on someone individually, we had the potential to beat teams that were in the top 10 in state.”
The combined efforts of the team and the scorer and assister celebrations displayed at the Providence and Richfield games are just a look at the teammate-based environment the Redhawk boys impose on their varsity team. Many in the set of varsity boys have played together since Minnehaha middle school teams, and have built great bonds together over the years. Mendez recalls playing soccer at Hiawatha Park in his seventh grade year, scoring off of now-senior Jared Brown’s punts with current-senior Erik Dahlman by his side.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you how happy I am when I’m on the field playing with the boys. We always have our tough moments but we know how to pick each other up. I’ve never felt so good about a team before. We stand each other so well and that’s what makes our playing great,” Mendez reflects.
Week 5 (October 1) : Their game flipped upside-down
A white Redhawk jersey lay parallel with the ground, and an outline of the number six stared back at concerned onlookers. The Minnehaha student section gaped as one of their varsity midfielders stretched out in pain against the dirt in the opponent’s box.
The Homecoming game against Simley condemned another season-changing injury to the Minnehaha boys’ soccer team, when sophomore center-midfielder Will Fletcher was displaced by the opposing goalkeeper. Trying to make sense of their unsuccessful attempts at finishing in the second half, Fletcher had made an attack at goal. After rushing past the defensive line and beating the goalkeeper, Fletcher was only to meet the ground before the ball reached the net.
“The goalie slid sideways on the ground into Will’s legs, which flipped him over the top,” senior defender Erik Dahlman recalled.
Fletcher was informed that he had a broken fibula when brought directly to the emergency room. The season loss of his dynamic presence concerns his teammates as they face section playoffs in the next week.
“Will was a really stabilizing presence for the whole team,” Dahlman reflects. “He held a real control over the center of the field. Losing that is losing a core part of our entire strategy.”
An additional season-ending injury was fated to the Minnehaha boys when junior Bennett Pope fought for ball possession in the first half of the Homecoming game. Pope’s broken big-toe puts him in a boot for the next month, stealing his ability to suit up for the playoff games.
The Redhawk boys are now bereft of three initial starters, with senior Jared Brown’s torn ACL and sprained MCL, and the new bench additions of Fletcher and Pope.
“A week before sections, we have three of our players injured and out for the season. So that is going to be tough to play through,” senior captain Peter Webster stated.
However, leading up to the anticipated week of playoffs, the boys built up necessary confidence in the Sept. 29 game against Trinity, winning 5-0.
“The game against Trinity primarily served to remind us what we are trying to do and how good we can actually play,” Dahlman stated.
Their display of technical possession and finishing showcased the results of their season of hard training and schedule of well-matched opponents. And although aware of their abrupt shift in the lineup, the team has lasting, positive projections for their performance in sections.
“Coach has said throughout the year that he sees us as being able to reach the section finals, and I agree,” Dahlman explained. “That is an achievable goal. The team is stronger this year than it has been in a long time, and hopefully our playoff performance will reflect that.”
To be continued.