Without a handful of starters, the Mingus Union High School boys soccer team came out on the right end of a 2-1 decision against visiting Lee Williams High School on Friday, Jan. 5.
The Marauders [3-3-1, 1-1 Grand Canyon] scored twice in the first half despite creating less chances and controlling less of the play against the Volunteers [2-6, 0-2].
“The second half we actually played better soccer but didn’t score,” Mingus head coach Calvin Behlow said. “We did a good job of maintaining a little better possession than the first half. The first half, we got goals when they didn’t, but I think they played a better first half than we did.”
Five starters were missing from the game, Behlow said. Many of the Marauders on the field from the first whistle had little experience to date, and on top of that many played out of position. A likely season-ending injury to senior forward Ezekiel Behlow, a three-time first team all-region player, deals a blow to the team’s offense. He underwent surgery on
Dec. 8 for a broken clavicle suffered against Dysart High School on Dec. 7.
With 13 players available Friday, after having 19 to begin the season, the rest of the season poses a challenge to the Mingus head coach.
“We’ve got to make the most of the opportunities that we can, when we have those opportunities,” Calvin Behlow said. “I can’t see us winning a 6-0 game anymore .... We’re going to have to grind out some 2-1, some 1-0 wins.”
Friday’s game was the Marauders’ first try at getting one of those low-scoring contests.
The opening goal came 15 minutes into the game and against the run of play. Lee Williams had been controlling the ball most of the time, but was never really threatening with it.
Marauders sophomore midfielder Angel De La Cruz found himself freed down the left side and behind the Volunteers’ defense. De La Cruz dribbled into the box, giving himself hardly any angle to shoot from. Nonetheless, he tucked the ball under Volunteers goalkeeper Jaden Messersmith.
The brightest point for Mingus was junior goalkeeper Levi Kerstad. Kerstad was called into action on plenty of occasions. He confidently came out of his goal to catch corner kicks and crosses into the danger area. One of his best saves came with 21 minutes left, when a lofted cross was met by a header in close.
Lee Williams continued to pour on the pressure with long-range shots or by getting the ball into the penalty area and lifting balls up and over defenders.
After a long lull in play during which both sides appeared to turn the ball over end-to-end without creating much of a threat, Lee Williams had its best chance.
Kerstad was forced into a save from a shot inside the 18-yard box and another shot that skipped wide. The visitors had two more efforts at goal in the closing minutes, but Mingus junior forward Bradley Howard scored in the closing seconds.
Howard received the ball on a counterattack on a long pass from midfield. The Volunteers’ goalkeeper came out to cut down the angle, deflecting Howard’s initial effort. The ball trickled behind and Howard tapped into an empty net with just two seconds remaining.
Lee Williams’ goal came with 15 minutes left in the second half on a free kick.
The team hosted Prescott High School on Tuesday, Jan. 9, but results were unavailable at press time. It next plays at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, against Thunderbird High School.