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Boys soccer: Cardinals want to run it back

With a deep, versatile roster, Willmar hopes to make another postseason run.

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Cardinals sophomore midfielder Miguel Altamirano Toruno battles for possession of the ball against Storm sophomore defender Luca Filiaggi during a match against Sauk Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, at Willmar High School.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Following up a state tournament run, the Cardinals' boys soccer team through depth and versatility is readying for another opportunity at a Class AA state title.

The Cardinals went undefeated in the 2021 regular season with a 14-0-2 record before finishing in fourth place at the state tournament with an 18-2-2 record.

"It was an amazing run," Cardinals head coach Jeff Winter said. "This year's team wants to win the section, conference and make it back to state."

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The 2021 Cardinals boys' soccer team scored 97 goals and conceded 22. The goal differential of 75 ranks second-highest in program history.

But as players graduate and move on each year, teams are never the same. Willmar has five players on its current roster from 2021.

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Some key players Willmar is without are Jordy Contreras, a 2021 Mr. Soccer nominee and a Class AA All-State First Team member, and Abdullahi Mohamud, who was voted the team's MVP and was a Class AA All-State First Team member after leading the Cardinals with 25 goals and 40 points.

"We should not compare ourselves to our team from last season," Cardinals senior captain and defender Kadar Muhumed said. "We have our own unique style and make-up."

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Cardinals senior defender Kadar Muhumed boots the ball up the field during a match against the Sauk Rapids Storm on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, at Willmar High School.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Willmar is off to a strong start in 2022, with a 3-0 overall record with two conference wins despite "some slows starts so far this season."

The Cardinals defeated Monticello and St. Cloud Apollo in similar fashions in their first two matches, winning both 1-0.

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Utilizing their depth against Sauk Rapids, the Cardinals dominated the Storm en route to a 7-0 victory on Tuesday. Five of their goals came in the second half.

This deep and versatile roster has made for some good problems for Winter. He has made lineup changes throughout the season, trying to find the right spot for his players.

"Pretty much everything we're doing with them is working," Winter said. "There are guys who can play four or five positions. ... We have guys coming off the bench that would be starters on a lot of other teams, so it's been hard to figure out a lineup."

The Cardinals currently run a 4-1-4-1 formation versus the 4-2-3-1 formation that Winter used in 2021.

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Said Winter, "You have to adjust to the skill sets of your players every year."

Willmar has five different goal-scorers already this season. Junior midfielder Idd Ali leads with three goals. All came in the match against Sauk Rapids.

Senior captain and goalkeeper Andrew Ziebarth returns in net for the Cardinals. He has 10 saves in three matches this season.

"Our team — we're not just a team — we are also a family," Cardinals senior captain and defender Omar Gavarrete said. "We all love each other and our bond is strong."

Through two weeks in the 2022 season, Willmar ranks No. 9 in the state Class AA rankings.

"I love this program and these guys," Winter said. "We are just so unique because we really represent the student body at Willmar. I will always take pride in that."

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in June 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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