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Boys soccer: Willmar dominates All-Cardinal showdown

Alexandria junior Graham Peterson (4) beats Willmar's Carlos Robles to a ball in the first half of a 7-2 loss at AAHS on Tuesday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)1 / 2
Alexandria senior Joseph Westlund (12) hugs Nathan Schneiderhan in celebration of Westlund's goal in the first half of a 7-2 loss at AAHS on Tuesday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)2 / 2

Eight minutes into Tuesday’s matchup, the Alexandria boys soccer team looked well on its way to ending a seven-game winless streak against Willmar.

That outlook changed in a hurry.

From there, Willmar cut through the Alex defense at will, scoring six straight goals by the end of the first half and soaring to a 7-2 thumping at AAHS.

“Our fitness level (needed to be better). We weren’t quite there,” Alex head coach Cahil Collins said. “We don’t have a lot of subs and we got hurt with fitness. When they started getting tired, they weren’t making those initial steps that they were when they first started the game.”

Alexandria (2-3) looked sharp early. Senior keeper Zach Wosepka stopped every ball that came his way, which allowed AAHS to jump ahead when Jacob Siira scored on a 7th-minute penalty kick after being taken down in the box.

A minute and a half later, Joseph Westlund doubled the lead when he headed in a goal off a corner kick for a 2-0 Alex lead.

But the scoreboard didn’t stay stagnant for long, and neither did Willmar’s attack.

Scoring chances sprouted in spurts throughout the rest of the half. First, Caleb Robles skipped a low shot off the turf and past Wosepka to make it a 2-1 game in the 17th minute. Cesar Leiva followed six minutes later with the equalizer, erasing the early edge Alex had built.

But the fallout didn’t stop there. Willmar went ahead on Maslah Farah’s strike in the 27th minute, and the avalanche rolled on when Robles found space in the box for his second goal of the game in the 33rd minute.

All of 54 seconds later, Leiva tallied his second goal when he corralled his blocked shot and sent it back toward the net. On the second attempt, he found the top right corner and the back of the net.

Following its strong start, Alexandria was limping to halftime with a 5-2 deficit. The first half finally ended, mercifully, but not until after Robles completed his hat trick with 29 seconds remaining.

In the second half, then, AAHS had some adjustments to make.

“We were looking to play some good defense, because we lacked that the last 20 minutes of the first half,” Collins said. “We focused first on defense, and then offense comes out of that. And they did. They stepped up and they started doing some smart things at the end.”

The Alexandria defense limited Willmar after the break. The backline didn’t allow much of anything to sneak through, and Wosepka saved all but one shot that did. The only second-half score was a Farah tap-in off an Abdimalik Mohamed pass during a 2-on-0 breakaway in the 59th minute.

But even still, the Alex offense was nowhere to be seen. While Willmar strung goals together, AAHS struggled to string passes together. The difficulties resulted in a limited number of offensive chances as Alexandria was shut out in the second half and fell victim to the five-goal decision.

The loss was Alexandria’s sixth in its last eight chances against Willmar. Dating back to 2013, they’re 0-6-2 over that stretch while getting outscored 31-11.

Collins was quick to credit the way Willmar has built its program.

“They’re well coached,” he said. “They start out young. They have some very skilled players.”

Alex will return to the pitch at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, for a road matchup at Moorhead.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Echo Press in Alexandria. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Alexandria area sports updates and jokes he thinks are funny.

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