State boys soccer: Cardiac Cards do it again against Worthington

Willmar ties it with less than 10 seconds left, then wins 2-1 in a shootout Thursday to advance to the Class AA semifinals against No. 1 Orono next Wednesday.

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Willmar senior Abdullahi Mohamud races past a pair of Worthington defenders in the offensive zone during a Class AA state quarterfinal game Thursday at Waconia. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

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WACONIA — Mere seconds before a historic season appeared to be coming to an end, Willmar Cardinals found new life courtesy of Anthony Reyes Jimenez and Abdullahi Mohamud.

Down 1-0 to Worthington Trojans with 10 seconds left in regulation of the Class AA state boys soccer quarterfinals, Reyes Jimenez lined up a free kick from the 10-yard line of the Waconia High School field.

“I was almost in tears at that point,” said junior goalkeeper Andrew Ziebarth. “I thought our season was over.”

Reyes Jimenez booted the ball into the mass of players in front of the net hoping for anything.

“The ref picked up the ball and gave it to me and said, ‘This is your last chance. Good luck,’” Reyes Jimenez said. “I looked up to the sky and I said, ‘Thank God for this, and I’m thankful for all that you did for us and for what you’re going to do.”

The ball found Mohamud, who put a header in the back of the net for the miraculous game-tying goal with five seconds remaining.


Playing through two scoreless overtime periods, the No. 4-seeded Cardinals and No. 5 Trojans had to settle it in a shootout. Willmar went a perfect 4-for-4 while Ziebarth made two stops as the Cardinals won the shootout, 4-3, for the 2-1 victory.

The state win is the first in the school’s three state trips.

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Willmar senior Abdullahi Mohamud takes a moment to celebrate after scoring in a shootout during a Class AA state quarterfinal game against Worthington at Waconia. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“They’ve made history,” said Cardinals head coach Jeff Winter. “It’s amazing.”

Said Reyes Jimenez, “We’re feeling proud of ourselves, I think we’re making all the people around Willmar happy. It’s just a feeling that I can’t explain.”

With steady rain and temperatures in the high-40s making for a bone-chilling evening, the Cardinals had to slow down a white-hot offense. Worthington came into the game as the state leader at 6.5 goals per game.



The Cardinals opted for a more conservative approach to slow down the Trojans, who were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.
“We knew that five (Jonathan Banegas) and 23 (Elmer Guzman Hernandez) were their goal scorers, and 8 (Menkem Mehri) and 13 (Ulises Barrera) have all the assists,” Winter said. “We knew we had to high-press on 8 and 13 so they couldn’t get those through-balls. They rely on through-balls and we defend through-balls well.

“We figured their plan would play into ours.”

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Willmar senior Anthony Reyes Jimenez heads the ball at midfield during a Class AA state quarterfinal game against Worthington Thursday at Waconia. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

The one mistake the defense made, Worthington made Willmar pay. In the 74th minute, Barrera dribbled past a Cardinals defender in the box and blasted the ball behind Ziebarth to break the scoreless tie.

After needing a come-from-behind to beat Princeton in the Section 6AA championship, Willmar had to rally for the second time in a week. But it was looking like the Trojans would complete the victory as Reyes Jimenez lined up the free kick.

“I looked at my teammates and they were all losing hope,” Reyes Jimenez said. “I looked at them and I told them to keep their head up. We just kept playing as a team. We keep our head up and we support each other.”

The ball found its mark, and Willmar’s season was still alive as the two teams prepared for sudden-death overtime.


With no goals in the extra periods, the Cardinals and Trojans lined up for the five-on-five shootout.

“I was really hoping to not go to penalty kicks, less drama,” Winter said. “But we also figured that if we went to PKs, we would win. We’ve been working on them off-and-on the last few weeks.”

The teams traded scores to make it 2-2. Jorge Zelaya Velasquez and Gabriel Rodriguez scored for Willmar. Dalen Gonzalez Perez and Barrera each converted for Worthington.

The Cardinals were given a reprieve when the attempt by the Trojans’ Santos Orellana Vargas went over the crossbar.

Up next for Willmar, Mohamud was successful on his try. After the score, he dropped to his knee and gave thanks for helping his team get an edge.

“I was really happy to know that we had a chance,” Mohamud said.

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Willmar's Jemil Osman (11), Kadar Muhumed (6) and Andrew Ziebarth celebrate after the Cardinals tied the game at 1-1 in the final seconds of regulation during a Class AA state quarterfinal game against Worthington Thursday in Waconia. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune


Banegas kept Worthington in it with a score, only for the Cardinals’ Diego Gonzalez to maintain the one-score edge with a goal on his attempt.

On Worthington’s final attempt to keep the shootout alive, Ziebarth made the diving save on a low kick by Mehri.

“I just knew I had to make a save,” said Ziebath, who made 11 stops in the victory. “I knew our guys were going to make theirs. I just knew I had to save one and I had faith in my team.”

With that stop, Willmar remains the only undefeated team in Class AA at 18-0-2. Worthington took its first loss of the year, finishing 19-1-0.

Awaiting Willmar in the state semifinals is an old rival in top-seeded Orono Spartans (18-1-1). The Spartans advanced after a 6-0 victory against unseeded Byron Bears Tuesday in Eden Prairie.

article7260013.ece WCTpoll 102921 Who will win the Class AA state boys' soccer semifinal Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021? Orono Spartans Willmar Cardinals

The former Section 6A foes will play at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.


“One of the first days of practice, I was telling the guys about section realignment and the class change, and the first question was, ‘Do we get to play Orono,’” Winter said. “When I told them no, there was a groan. Now, their wish came true.”

Said Mohamud, “We’ve been waiting for this game since they knocked us out last year.”

Willmar 2,
Worthington 1

Worthington (19-1-0).............. 0 1 0 0 0 — 1
Willmar (18-0-2)...................... 0 1 0 0 1 — 2
FIRST HALF – No goals
SECOND HALF – Wor: Ulises Barrera 74th minute … Will: Abdullahi Mohamud (Anthony Reyes Jimenez) 80th minute.
OT 1 – No goals
OT 2 – No goals
PKS – Wor: Dalen Gonzalez Perez; Barrera; Jonathan Banegas … Will: Jorge Zelaya Velasquez; Gabriel Rodriguez; Mohamud; Diego Gonzalez
SHOTS ON GOAL – Wor: 16. Will: 13
GOALIE SAVES – Wor: Osmin Pineda Ferrera, 13 saves … Will: Andrew Ziebarth, 11 saves

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Willmar senior Diego Gonzalez (left) gets the ball by Worthington's Isaiah Noble during a Class AA state quarterfinal game Thursday at Waconia. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

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