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Boys soccer: New-look Cards pass their first test

Alexandria junior Graham Peterson goes to the air to win a race to a loose ball and send the ball up the field against East Grand Forks' Khalid Mohammed during Thursday's season opener. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 5
Alexandria senior JJ Foster holds off East Grand Forks' Christian Widman during Thursday's season opener. Foster scored the Cardinals' first goal in a 2-1 win over the Green Wave. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 5
Alexandria's Jacob Meuwissen fends off East Grand Forks' Khalid Mohammed during Thursday's season opener at AAHS. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 5
Alexandria's Joshua Kietzmann beats the East Grand Forks keeper before putting in the game-winning goal during the Cardinals' 2-1 win on Thursday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)4 / 5
Alexandria's Graham Peterson walks back down the field as East Grand Forks' AbdiMalik Abdi (facing) and Khalid Omar celebrate Omar's goal late in the first half on Thursday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 5

A new-look Alexandria boys soccer team saw a lot of things to like in its season opener on Thursday night.

The Cardinals lost plenty of important seniors from last year’s 10-win team, including a couple of potent scorers in Cameron Rice and Michael Kuhn. There are opportunities for new talent to emerge, and Alexandria got just enough in a 2-1 opening win over East Grand Forks at AAHS.

“They came out phenomenally,” head coach Cahil Collins said. “The passing was just spot on. We controlled the field. We were doing a lot of one and two touch ball, and they really couldn’t keep up with us. Then as the game progressed, we got a little fatigued and the passes stopped being there like they were, but they came through in the end.”

The Cardinals got an early goal from senior JJ Foster off an assist from junior Joshua Kietzmann in the first half. That made it 1-0 less than six minutes in, but East Grand Forks tied it up with a goal from Khalid Omar three minutes before the half.

It was midway through the second half in that 1-1 game when Alexandria broke free for the game winner. Kietzmann ran onto a free ball near midfield and raced toward the goal. The Green Wave keeper was the only man to beat, and he did that by tapping the ball past him before putting it into the open net.

“I’m pretty sure it was Sean (Haak) who assisted it,” Kietzmann said. “I saw him boot it, and I was like, ‘This goalie isn’t going to come out.’ So I just ran as fast as I could and tapped it past him. I just hoped I wouldn’t miss the net, and it went in.”

It is going to be on guys like Kietzmann and Foster to shoulder a lot of the scoring load this year for Alexandria. Kietzmann said they’re excited for the opportunity.

They had chances to add even more goals on Thursday. Foster was especially aggressive going to the net and just missed on the kind of quality looks that the Cardinals hope to capitalize on as the season progresses.

“(JJ) and Joshua Kietzmann are our players up top,” Collins said. “It’s designed that they work together. In fact, the one JJ scored, Josh assisted that one. Then Joshua gets that second goal. They’re starting to work really well together. We just need to foster that and keep that happening. Then I think some good things will happen.”

East Grand Forks had one last chance to tie the game inside of two minutes left. The Green Wave had a clear breakaway with multiple players rushing the net. Alexandria senior keeper Zach Wosepka made a move on the ball as they entered the box, but EGF got a clean look at the net that somehow managed to hit a crossbar and go over, allowing the Cardinals to regroup.

“It was a total miracle there,” Wosepka said with a smile. “They had a breakaway coming down the field. We’re always taught to wait for them to take a long touch and go out and attack, so that’s what I did. The guy stopped a little bit. I tried to go for the ball, and he passed it over. Just completely by a miracle it hit the crossbar.”

For the Cardinals, a win is a win this early in the season with so many new faces. Alexandria has just four seniors listed on the roster. That means a group of juniors, sophomores and two freshmen, defenders Holden Hanson and Colin Reilly, will provide the depth for this team.

For much of the game, the Cardinals were solid on the defensive side. They held EGF without a lot of quality looks at the net.

“The defense played really well tonight,” Wosepka said. “There’s a lot of communication that goes on between me and the ‘D’. They really stepped up. They played the best they could, and I couldn’t be more happy with their play.”

The Cardinals passed their first test with coaches feeling there were a lot of positive things to build on. That’s exactly how they were hoping the season opener would go.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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