If they can improve their scoring, the Maple Grove boys’ soccer team can be a formidable team in 2013.
Last year the Crimson struggled to score goals and finished 6-7-3 overall and 4-5-2 in the conference, good for fifth place. They lost to Mounds View in the first round of section play.
“Last year we were inches away from tying Mounds View and we came up short,” Crimson coach Gregg Leininger said. “No one expected us to do so well, and we felt we could have gotten the result. We didn’t have a lot of goal scorers so we had to survive by defense.”
Leininger believes his 2013 team should be able to score more this season.
“Our biggest strength is that we have a lot of options,” he said. “We’ll be flexible. We can handle an injury, should it happen, because of that. We’ll probably get goals from several places. That’s a strength. Our players are able to move around and play in different positions.”
The Crimson are relatively young, with five seniors, 13 juniors, two sophomores and one freshman. Returning lettermen include Ted Janka, Michal Berratt, Kevin Hoof, Trevor Gifft, Daniel Cortez, Ali Kowsari, Ben Nelson, Garrett Maupin and Jared Schweiss. There are some talented players on the team and Leininger said Hoof and junior newcomer Reid Diamond are All-Metro or All-State caliber players.
When asked about his outlook for his team this season, Leininger said: “Promising. We’re throwing our hat in the ring. We’re in the game. We won’t lay down for anyone and we’ll be ready.”
Leininger said Champlin Park and Anoka are the favorites in the conference.
“I’ve got to say Champlin Park,” he said. “You need to give a nod to the team that just had it. Those two programs (Champlin Park and Anoka) are bigger than us.”
The Crimson opened the season on a promising note with a 1-0 win over Orono Aug. 22 and an 8-0 rout of Mound-Westonka Aug. 24. The team had nine goals and half-a-dozen Crimson have scored just two games into the season.
Against Orono, the Crimson won the day 1-0 in a game that featured creative ball movement and emphasized defense. Maple Grove dominated the play, keeping the ball on the opposition’s side of field the majority of the game. A powerful back line anchored by Sam Gardner, a junior, kept the defense focused on moving the ball forward. Johnathon Piotraschke, a senior, and juniors Ryan Petersen and Vladimir Maltsev ensured the Orono players didn’t have time or space to create dangerous situations. Nelson, the junior goalkeeper, squelched the opposition’s main attack, coming out to shut down a breakaway and parrying a free kick that started on the Crimson side. Carson Thomas, a junior, scored the first goal of the season. As a corner kick from sophomore
Garrett Maupin in the first half curved toward the goal, Thomas leaped above the opposition and flicked the ball with his head past the goalkeeper. Maupin revved up his teammates in the second half with a shot that pinged off the cross bar. Junior Daniel Cortez kept the ball alive by diverting it with his head toward Ian DeBois, a junior whose shot was wrapped up by the goalkeeper.
Maple Grove’s offense came alive in the 8-0 win against Mound-Westonka. Hoof, a junior captain, broke the ice with an unstoppable penalty kick to the corner after Diamond was tripped in the penalty box. Hoof earned his second goal by capitalizing on a through ball from Schweiss that split the opposition’s defense. The Crimson led at halftime 2-0.
Gifft, a junior captain, set up the first goal of the second half by playing the ball behind the opposition’s back line. Diamond, in a burst of speed, beat the defense and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper.
In one of the most entertaining sequences of the night, Piotraschke played the ball to the right corner, and junior Ben Zaver crossed it into the box. Hoof’s initial header was bobbled by the goalkeeper and the ball fell to the ground. Hoof finished it off with a back heel into the goal. Mitch Berg, a junior, then rocketed in a shot from 35 yards out. One minute later, Janka received a pass inside the opposition’s box, took an outside right touch and placed the ball into the right corner of the net. Gifft added a goal to his earlier assist when the ball bounced off a defender, he spun and one-touched it past the goalkeeper.
The final score came as Emanuel Gbor, a sophomore, broke to the corner after a fast throw-in from junior Ali Kowsari. After Gbor drove the ball toward to the goal, Diamond got a foot on it and put away his second goal.
Nelson kept his second clean sheet in the game, stopping two breakaways and saving several powerful shots.