By Scott A. Kolb
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
Youth Soccer Night at Art Hass Stadium provided the perfect setting for the sixth straight win by the Austin Packers.
With a lot of younger players watching from the stands, the Austin boys put on an offensive show in a 5-1 win over Rochester John Marshall.
The Packers scored three goals in the first half to put the visiting John Marshall Rockets in a deep hole for this Big Nine Conference game. The comfortable lead allowed the home fans to enjoy an extended halftime with the little soccer players getting a chance to play on the big field.
When the halftime fun was over, the youngsters shook hands with the Packers as they took the field for the second half. The kids all received a team poster and then they got to watch the big boys continue their offensive display.
“I’m glad we had a nice turnout with the young kids and it looked like they had a good time,” Austin coach Jens Levisen said. “This was a fun night for the players in our youth program and they got the chance to meet the guys on the varsity. Hopefully, the way we played in the game inspired them to continue developing their soccer skills.”
Passing to the open man and getting a flurry of good shots enabled the Packers to dominate the Rockets in the conference win. Henry Darling, who recently returned from a suspension, got the Packers rolling with an early goal.
Getting a shooter like Henry Darling back made the Austin offense even more dangerous. Darling scored another goal in the second half as the Packers won their third straight Big Nine game.
“I noticed in the first half that I could get away from their defenders and my teammates hit me with some nice passes,” Darling said. “I’m getting back into the groove of the game and scoring two goals always helps your confidence. Their defenders got kind of frustrated in the second half and started grabbing a lot, but we got through it with a win.”
Dante Ortiz made it a 2-0 lead for the Packers midway through the first half. The goal by Ortiz came off an assist from Jacob Brehmer.
The offensive forays into the JM end of the field never ceased as Austin fired a total of 23 shots on the night. The Packers would add another goal to their lead late in the first half.
Jacob Larson had the assist on the opening goal by Darling and his passing set up another scoring opportunity inside the final seven minutes of the half. Alex Klock took the pass from Larson and beat the JM keeper for a three-goal lead at the break.
“We worked the offense pretty well in the first half and got a lot of good looks,” Larson said. “We did a decent job of using the short passes to get the ball to the fast guys on the outside. The strong offense kept the ball in their end and allowed us to play good defense.”
Packers goalie Ryan Rasell spent most of the game watching his teammates kick the ball around the other end of the field. Rasell only faced a total of five shots and had four saves. He almost recorded his fifth straight shutout, but the Rockets got a goal in the 68th minute.
By that time, the Packers had already put the score out of reach. Physical play became a characteristic of the second half as each team was issued a pair of yellow cards.
The tide turned for good against the Rockets when Ortiz got behind the defense for an open shot with 25 minutes left to play. Ortiz was knocked down by a JM defender and Austin was awarded a penalty kick.
Tim Horn took the penalty shot for the Packers and nailed it for a 4-0 lead. Just a few minutes later, Horn got the assist on Darling’s second goal. This gave the Packers an insurmountable five-goal lead.
“We have a lot of different guys that can score goals and that’s what makes our offense tough to stop,” Levisen said. “The defense can’t just key on one guy, because we keep moving it around the field. The guys trust each other when they make a pass, and everybody keeps looking for shots. The team is attacking and playing well.”
Austin (7-2, 3-2 Big Nine) travels to Rochester Mayo for a key conference showdown on Tuesday night.