Boys Soccer: Red Wing hoping to grow quickly

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A 2-0 loss to Mankato East to open the season for the Red Wing boys soccer team is not necessarily an indication of how the season is going to go for the Wingers. Thursday's setback was not ideal, but there is an enormous room for growth for Tony Casci's squad.

"Our largest group is our sophomore class. We have about 12 or 13 of those guys, and most of them are year-round soccer players, so that's kind of our core," Casci said. "We do have some very talented seniors and juniors, but with our numbers in the sophomore class, they'll see a lot of time, too."

With just four seniors, the team will have to mature early. But one of those four is in a key position for Red Wing.

"Our two goalkeepers, senior John Rothering and sophomore Keegyn McNamee, will split the first two starts and then we'll go from there," Casci said. "We'll try to put them in positions that are best for them because they have two completely different styles. John put us in a good position to win (Thursday)."

Considering the youth, which also features three freshmen, Casci is moving some pieces around to build around that young core. So with so many new names, there is also going to be a new way to play.

"We are playing a different formation. It's much more flexible and it gives us more opportunities to give more support to players wherever the ball is on the field," Casci said. "If we need more on the defensive half, we can pull midfielders back, but we also have some outside defenders that have the green light to go up in the offensive half."

Yet, one issue still lingers: scoring. The Wingers finished 4-13-1 last year, and scored just 23 goals. But with the defensive until all but set, Red Wing can focus a lot of practice time to the offensive end.

"We've got speed where we need speed, but finishing has always been a downfall for our teams. Getting the ball to our finishers, and getting them to finish, that's what our focus is going to be over the next two weeks," Casci said. "We've had plenty of reps on defense...Keeping that structure in the offensive half (will be key)."

With a youth movement at hand, the Wingers will define success with small steps. But they don't have to look far into the past for some motivation and a glimpse at what could be. A 1-0 loss to the third-seed in the Section 1A playoffs was what sent sixth-seeded Red Wing home. And that team ended up being something special.

"Northfield beat us last year in the second round and they went on to be state runners-up. And they're not in our section anymore," Casci said. "But a first-round home playoff game would be a good success marker. And being able to be competitive in our section/conference games, the teams we play in both like Winona and Austin, those types of games will be a good marker for where we're at."