By Daniel Kerwin
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - At the midpoint of the second half of Thursday's boys' soccer game against New Prague, New Ulm senior Ryan Plath had already netted two goals to help the Eagles take a 4-0.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Nicolas Gartner leaps for the ball as Colin Minar of New Prague defends on the play during the first half Thursday at Martin Luther College in New Ulm. Looking on in the background is the Eagles’ Noah Webb (right).
He hadn't yet produced his most impressive feat of the game, though.
In the 59th minute Plath channeled his inner Babe Ruth and called his own shot on a cross to teammate Broderick Brown, which Brown converted for New Ulm's fifth goal in its 6-3 victory.
With Plath controlling the ball on the right side of the New Prague net, he spotted Brown in perfect position in the middle of the box. As he crossed the ball, Plath yelled, "Broderick!", after which the ball sailed straight onto Brown's head and then into the back of the net.
"I was in the corner, I had the ball, I knew I was going to be able to put it up," Plath said. "I saw Broderick coming in, so I just yelled it and tried to drop it right on his head, and it worked."
"It was right on," added Brown, who compiled a hat-trick in the game.
The Eagles dominated the pace of the game throughout, creating numerous scoring opportunities. Plath gave New Ulm the lead for good in the fifth minute, receiving a pass from teammate Josh Koelpin that he slotted to the right side of Trojan keeper Zach Jones.
Koelpin added a score of his own in the 31st minute, dribbling the ball up the middle until he had a one-on-one with Jones, placing his shot into the lower left-hand corner of the net.
"It was very important just to get rolling right away and get off to a good, quick start," Plath said. "We kept it going in the end and we pulled out the win."
The Eagles had plenty of chances to add to their lead throughout the first half, but had to settle for a 2-0 lead at the half. The closest New Ulm came to adding another goal was in the 19th minute, when Plath dribbled around three defenders and launched a shot that was saved by Jones. Koelpin headed the rebound back toward the net, but a New Prague defender cleared the ball on the goal line.
New Ulm came out of the break even deadlier than in the first half, increasing its lead to 5-0 by the mid-point of the second half.
"When I chatted with them [at halftime], I told them we need to keep our spacing on the field," New Ulm head coach Jack Gronholz said. "The first part of the first half we just tried to run it right down the center, and when you spread it out they have to account for the men that are outside, and that opens up the middle."
Brown started things off in the 52nd minute, launching a rocket of a shot from the edge of the penalty area that zipped past the Trojan defense and to the right of a diving Jones in net.
Plath scored just two minutes later on a corner kick by Brown that bounced into the box and straight to Plath's left foot, where he volleyed it into the net.
New Prague heated up from that point on, scoring three of the next four goals, but the game was already safely in New Ulm's possession at that point.
New Ulm's final goal was scored by Brown in the 73rd minute, which put the Eagles ahead 6-1 at that point. Brown had set up Seth Wiechman with a well-placed through-ball, but Wiechman ran out of room and had to pull the ball back as he approached the goal line. He sent the ball back into the center, where Brown was waiting in perfect position and smashed the ball into the top of the net, emphatically completing his hat-trick.
"I was just ready to play," Brown said. "I was not tired. I was just raring to go."
Alexander King was a strong presence for New Ulm in net, with two of the Trojans' goals coming via one-on-one breakaways and the third coming on a rebound after King saved a direct free kick.
Although the Eagles missed plenty of close chances to score, the team's performance was much improved from its season-opening tournament the previous Friday.
"The first game we played we scored two goals and had 40 shots, which means we weren't very accurate with the shots," Gronholz said. "Through the whole course of practice this week we focused on keeping the ball low and looking where we're shooting, and I think we ended up with 31 shots and we had six goals, so the ratio is kind of getting up there... For the third game of the season, the season week of the season, I think they're probably where they should be."
New Ulm (2-1) will host St. Peter on Tuesday.