Duluth Recap August 23 and 24
September 1, 2013East Ridge Boys Soccer
Toothbrush...check. New home kit...check. New away kit...check. New attitude...check.
The packing list was brief and to the point for the new look Raptors as they ventured north to establish a new tradition at the Duluth Soccer Showcase. The growing pains and gangliness of prior teams is gone. This is a team stocked with talent with a new resolve based on a set of values.
There is always a sense of trepidation when trying new things. Going on the road, in the cold, in the snow, and the wind...to play soccer is a daunting task.
However, we all soon discovered that Duluth in the late summer is a majestic place. And hot. Very hot. Africa hot. Fueling the world's growth, Duluth is busy. We could almost reach out and touch the 700+ ton ships that feed the world economies. But our task was soccer. Start the year well and stay healthy.
Bloomington Kennedy was the test last Friday at Duluth East's Ordean Stadium. The Raptors started brightly and controlled play testing right and then left. It seemed almost inevitable that the Raptors would be rewarded from the flanks but honors of the opening goal went Ashwin Kolla.
Zach Boerjan was sent down the right by Connor Stevenson...broke free and shot but it was deflected out for a corner. Samuel (Samo) Ruiz Plaza stepped to the corner and shaped a lovely ball into the middle. Like Squire Arthur seizing the opportunity to draw Excalibur from a stone, Ashwin darted forward and drove his head lethally into the ball. The momentum was more than enough to overcome the desperate attempts of the defense to parry. The ball was in and the Raptors had a deserved goal. This kingly moment was no surprise to his teammates as they all call him Raj (meaning "kingly").
Raptors relaxed a bit and the Kennedy Eagles moved brazenly forward. Their attacks were blunted high up the field by Thomas Redden and Kris Broughton. When they did get through, they found the salty disposition of Alec Tostenrud (Toast) or the whip like athleticism of Joseph Kays. Chris Knight maintained an unbreachable wall.
The 2nd goal came just before half. Connor Stevenson, playing a deep midfield position, once again found Zach breaking right. With lethal intent Zach got the edge...and slid a perfectly weighted pass to a near side charging Jarrod Ronquillo. With maturity belying his sophomore status, Jarrod deftly touched home. Pure class.
The 3rd came midway through the 2nd half. The game lost some flow through substitutions where familiarity has not been established. But the Raptors continued to control and found themselves spreading their wings through good combinations of Calvin Zachman and Baley Barjesteh. But it was Jarrod who got free down the right and reciprocated a pass to a charging Zach who coolly finished to the far corner...making it look easy.
Kris Broughton finished off the scoring when Danny Muntner won a corner. Samo again placed a beautiful ball to his Red Bull Club teammate and Kris placed his header just under the bar. That is how you draw it up. So sweet.
The 4-0 finish was a fair reflection of the play. The Raptors were that good and one has to shudder to think what they are capable of when they get fully healthy.
The evening meal at Grandmas, the fun to be had at the Adventure Zone were all fueled by this rousing victory. But the boys also knew their test was about to get much harder. Duluth East is a perennial soccer power that routinely visits State. Bed came early and by breakfast time their attention had turned to this Top 10 ranked team.
East play a different brand of soccer. Powerful. Aggressive. Actually it looked more like hockey at times than soccer. The Raptors continues their fluid play but it was clipped a bit by the unpunished physical approach by East. Things were getting dangerous and the ref was losing control of the game. The one-sided/suspect nature of calls created a warped sense of things. Delays followed and soon we all felt a menacing presence just to the North of the stadium in the woods. I, for one, was too scared to look.
Captain KZ stepped forwarded and calmed the waters with the ref...then implored his mates to defend Raptor honor. Senior Danny was the first to answer the call by giving back to East all they had given us. Taking the queue from Danny, the Raptors took flight and like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", they threw themselves into play. They were quickly rewarded when Raj was fed in the left middle of the box...muscled free of the defender...looked right and saw his mate Zach. Raj bestowed his gift to Zach. He gladly received and showed his appreciation by placing it in the back of the net. 1-0 for the Raptors. That had the hearts pumping.
Raptors kept the pressure looking to bury East. Connor went close with a couple of biting runs. Toast saw a header go just over. Nathan Ly, hammered early, rose from the deck to work some magic up front.
East eventually began to work forward but was continually shut down by the stingy defense. The ref continues his uneven behavior by carding Several Raptors. Half ended 1-0.
The halftime speech by the captains must have been something because they Raptors came out flying again. Within 2 minutes they had doubled the score.
Once again it was Zach working his magic right after being fed by Connor. Into the box he went and slid a pass to Jarrod. East had watched the Kennedy match the previous day and knew what was going to come next. But, Jarrod's maturity as a player also includes discernment on when to give and when to take. In this case, he had no shot and he correctly played back to Zach. This was a new wrinkle in approach that might have caught everyone by surprise...including Zach. There was a brief moment of hesitation by everyone...and then Zach blasted off to his right winning the end line close to goal. Maybe too close. Impossible angle. Certain corner. Nope...Zach roofs a shot that harkens back to Landon Donovan's 2010 World Cup goal. Man that was sweet...so sweet that everyone in the stadium now has rotten teeth.
The advantage was somewhat short lived though as East was able to take advantage of a long cross and an illegal pick to free a backside winger who easily slotted the sitter. 2-1.
Having come against the run of play a bit, Raptors went back to work but soon found themselves down a man after a red card.
For the next 30 minutes the Raptors gamely defended their turf. The back line of KZ, Toast, Broughton, And Collins held firm. Muntner and Ronquillo forced the play up front. Connor, Samo, and Zach took over stretches of the game.
In the end, East could not muster the game knotting stroke and the Raptors walked out and bussed home victorious.
The 2-0 start is exactly what was hoped for. The Knicks and knocks that come from this event will heal. The time together will grow in stature and will be a great foundation for the future events.
Next game is Tuesday night against St Louis Park in the Nest.