Pelican Rapids explodes in first half to beat Crookston, 5-0, in season opener
The Crookston boys' soccer team's 2020 season opener went a lot like their 2019 season overall.
The Pirates were severely overmatched throughout the first half before turning things around after the break; a respectable finish that wasn't to make up for the start but provided just enough optimism if you squint.
Pelican Rapids pumped in five first-half goals on Tuesday afternoon, which was all the Vikings needed to spoil Crookston's season opener, 5-0, at CHS.
"We knew Pelican was going to be really good," said Pirates head coach Lon Boike.
After all, Pelican Rapids beat Crookston 7-2 and 9-0 a season ago and came into Tuesday coming off a 7-0 rout of Detroit Lakes last week. The Vikings put their firepower on display throughout the first half, timing their runs, crisply passing the ball around the box and finishing with precision.
"They would pass it and just cut right through the middle of our defense and get a pass back," Boike said. "We had to tighten up a little bit more."
But just as big a contributor towards the afternoon's rout, Boike said, was the wind — powerful gusts heading north around 30 mph while the Pirates fruitlessly tried to attack in the other direction.
Even when Crookston managed to stop Pelican Rapids' attack, it couldn't build anything of its own. The wind cut down senior Kaleb Thingelstad's goal kicks before they reached their targets, and the Vikings' speed gave the Pirates little time on the ball.
"The wind had a lot to do with it, but ... we gotta get better offensively and we struggled with that last year too," Boike said. "I didn't think our passing was particularly sharp. Those guys are really good, no question about it, but our passing first touch on the ball ... we can't take two or three touches."
In the second half, it was Pelican Rapids' turn to be impeded by the wind. It showed, as the Vikings put just five shots on goal while the Pirates had three (the first-half difference was 14-1 Pelican Rapids). But Boike thought Crookston's defense stiffened up after the break, even though the wind was still the biggest factor.
One key was shifting Noah Dragseth (Sr.) back from his central midfield role into a more defensive position, where he played down the stretch last season and contributed to the Pirates' improvement. Boike wanted to play Dragseth higher this season, but Dragseth's natural defensive skill was apparent to him Tuesday.
"He's pretty solid back there," Boike said. " ... We did kind of square things up a little bit more and were a little bit tighter. Get in trouble, kick it out of bounds. There's no shame in that and resetting the defense a little bit instead of letting them slide through."
That defensive performance is reason for encouragement in Boike's eyes. After a 2-13 season in which Crookston scored just 15 goals, the second-year head coach has no delusions of his team becoming an juggernaut. But if the Pirates can stick to what they did well on Tuesday, they'll have chances to compete in the future — heavy wind or not.
"We don't anticipate scoring a ton of goals this year," Boike said. "But if we can get a two or three in the net and just play defense after that, that's what we're hoping to do."
UP NEXT: The Pirates travel to East Grand Forks on Thursday. The Green Wave, who beat Crookston by scores of 8-2 and 3-0 a year ago, also lost their season opener on Tuesday, falling 3-2 to Detroit Lakes.
SCORING (no times were taken)
- Daniel Urbano (Pelican Rapids)
- Hamsa Ishowa (Pelican Rapids)
- Khadar Ibrahim (Pelican Rapids)
- Joshua Urbano (Pelican Rapids)
- Jesus Moreno (Pelican Rapids)
- Crookston: Kaleb Thingelstad 19 saves (14 first half, 5 second)
- Pelican Rapids: Sebastian Rosiles 4 saves (1 first half, 3 second)
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