The Park Center boys soccer team entered the 2017 season knowing it could take some time to build up its defense, as the Pirates graduated all of its defensive starters following the 2016 season.
While the Pirates have spent the first few weeks of the season working on improving their defense, the Pirates’ offense has gotten off to a strong start to the year.
Park Center opened the season with a 2-2 tie with North St. Paul Aug. 24, before forcing a 3-3 tie with Mounds View Aug. 26.
The Pirates got off to a strong start in their game against Champlin Park Aug. 29, as Park Center led 2-0 at halftime on a penalty kick goal by Caleb Love and a header by Gabriel Nyenka. The Rebels forced overtime with just over 14 minutes left, and Champlin Park scored twice in the second overtime period to seal the victory.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Park Center head boys soccer coach Jason Barnhouse said. “The fixes are really simple, but it’s about getting the mentality to buy into doing your job all the time and over and over again.
“[Our defense] is a work in progress, we have to find a way to mark a player regardless of whether you are a defender or a midfielder. We let too many guys run free.”
While the Park Center defense let up a couple of late goals, Barnhouse was impressed by the way his team’s offense played against the Rebels.
“We focused on, in the first two games we weren’t very sure of ourselves and we were panicking, but we were passing the ball not as well as we could, but a lot better,” Barnhouse said. “We created a lot of chances, we probably should have had five or six in the first half, but we didn’t.”
Despite the less-than-ideal start to the season, Barnhouse knows his team has a good chance to make a deep section run.
“I’m very confident in this group come October,” Barnhouse said. “I would take our midfielders and forwards against any team in the state, but once we figure out our team defense we will be very dangerous.”
With a talented core of players, especially at the forward and midfield positions, Barnhouse knows his team will improve greatly with time.
“Our expectation every year is to win the section, regardless of who is coming back,” Barnhouse said. “It’s going to be a different process this year with zero defenders returning this year compared to our entire defense the year before.
“It shows in the games, we have a lot of good stretches and then more stretches when we don’t know what to do.”
Park Center will play its next game of the season against Osseo at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, at Park Center High School.
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