With target on its back, Moorhead tops Elk River in section quarterfinals
MOORHEAD—Although Maple Grove is the top seed in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 boys soccer tournament, defending section champion Moorhead feels the target is on its back.
"You pretty much play the whole season getting ready for section playoffs," Moorhead junior midfielder Alhasan Alomar said. "I think everyone wants to beat us and get us out because we won it last year. Obviously, everyone is looking down on us."
Moorhead began its defense of the section title Thursday with a 3-0 win over No. 7 seed Elk River.
"We want to go a little bit further this year," Moorhead senior midfielder Clay Riveland said. "Pressure is on us from the previous seniors. They've said to go out and do the same thing this year and they're supporting us. We're just trying to get to state and hopefully win some games there."
Less than nine minutes into the match, Alomar drove to the corner of the box, found Riveland at the top of the box and Riveland found the back of the net on a blast. That was the lone goal of the first half.
Elk River (2-15) stayed with No. 2 seed Moorhead (14-2-1) for the first half and midway through the second half, but the Spuds were too much. With 24 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the match, Alomar found Abdiqani Nur in the box. Nur made a defender miss, drove to the net and beat Elk River goalie William Sibilski low and to the right.
"I feel like we worked a bit harder this game just to get through and hopefully we can do it again," Riveland said. "They were pressuring our mids. They had to dribble a little bit more this game, but I think we found it in the second half. We broke them down a little bit, and our center mids connected a little bit and played a little better."
A two-goal lead wasn't enough for first-year Moorhead coach Ben Patrie to breathe easy, so the Spuds added another. Alomar picked up his third assist, finding Abdifatah Ibrahim behind everyone to seal it with 2:52 remaining.
"We talked about needing to stay calm, keep our composure, make things simpler," Patrie said. "We were trying to force the ball long. We were forcing the ball and giving up possession for no reason. We made sure to try to play simpler, play faster to feet. That allowed us to find those opportunities and we capitalized on them."
The Spuds moved to 8-0-1 in their last nine and will play at home in the section semifinals at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
"We've stayed hungry," Patrie said. "We have a lot of personalities in this group, a lot of guys who want the ball. We just want to be driven toward one goal, and that's to get to state and see if we can make waves. I think we just found our focus and found where we're comfortable."