Vikings alter formation, strategy for 2017
The last few years have been difficult for the North Branch boys soccer team.
In 2016, the Vikings won only three games. In 2015 they went winless, and they achieved two wins and three draws in 2014. The Vikings have not won a single Mississippi 8 contest since joining the league in 2013, though they did defeat M8 foe Princeton in a tournament game in 2014.
Second-year head coach Jake Borash concedes that, as one of the smallest schools in the conference, the pool of players with previous soccer experience is correspondingly small.
“Being a small school, it’s a lot harder to get players that are soccer players,” Borash said. “We have to build some athletes into soccer players.”
Junior attacker Jose Elzarraga Flor stands out as a player to whom the above does not apply. Flor is a speedy and skilled attacker who led the team in goals last year – he is on top of the scoresheet through the first three games of this season as well.
“(Flor) likes to go forward and score, but I put him in a position that’s more of a playmaker,” Borash said.
Borash has instituted a new 3-5-2 formation that he hopes will enable the Vikings to play as a team rather than as a collection of individuals. Flor plays at the top of the five-man midfield, which also contains two central players and two wide wingers.
“It’s a system that’s really strong in the middle,” Borash said. “Our defense has to be connected to our center defensive mids who are connected to the center forward, who is connected to the strikers. The two wingers roam the outside.”
In the home opener, senior Dawson Linkert started in goal. The defenders were senior Christian Guerin and sophomores Isaac Johnson and George Blackwell. The midfield was manned by juniors Connor Mattson, Nathan Korkowski, Parker Johnson and Flor, and sophomore Mason Maroschek; senior Andrew Johnson and freshman Harry Touissaint started at striker.
Flor and Mattson are the captains. Both have played at the varsity level since they were in the seventh grade.
The Vikings have dropped their first three contests of the season, losing 8-1 at Irondale, 2-1 against Duluth East and 2-0 against Christian Life. The Vikings will play each of their Mississippi 8 foes once, beginning with a road trip to St. Michael-Albertville on Thursday. They will host nonconference opponent Proctor on Saturday.
Other non-M8 opponents will include Spectrum, Hibbing, Delano and Cloquet.