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Austin's Rasell records another shutout

By Scott A. Kolb

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Austin and Albert Lea played 90 minutes of boys soccer on Tuesday night at Art Hass Stadium and nobody scored.

The Austin Packers had a penalty shot from Martin Mannocchio late in the second half, but it didn’t go in. The two teams then played out the remainder of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime with neither side finding the net.

This was the second shutout of the season for Austin goalie Aaron Rasell. Throughout the night Rasell and his defense were tested, but they didn’t give up any goals. Rasell recorded 14 saves in the scoreless draw.

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"Our defense has been solid in the first three games of the season," Austin coach Jens Levisen said. "We had a number of scoring opportunities and just didn’t put them in. Martin had the penalty kick, but their goalie guessed right and stopped the shot."

Whenever the Packers and Albert Lea Tigers get together on the soccer field it’s always a spirited battle with more than a few collisions. The referees were short a man and they had a tough job trying to regulate the physical play in this Big Nine Conference contest.

The first half was relatively calm, although Austin forward Peter Lindahl was injured in a collision with an Albert Lea player. Lindahl had his ankle wrapped and didn’t return to the game. This further hampered the Austin offensive potential.

There was a nice crowd on hand for the first home game of the season and they got to see plenty of action, just no scoring on the night. The referees had to issue a few yellow cards in the second half. As the game wore on, things got a little chippy on the field.

Miguel Cisneros of the Packers was knocked down with 22:40 to play in the second half. Jacob Brehmer of the Packers got a direct kick after the whistle blew, but his shot sailed wide.

Back and forth they went down the stretch with each team fanning on scoring chances. The Packers had a host of guys camped in front of the Tigers net with about 15 minutes left, but they couldn’t get a clear look. The Tigers also tested Rasell over the final minutes of regulation.

Richard Needham of Albert Lea got free in front of the net midway through the second half, but Rasell was up to the task and stopped the shot. The Albert Lea offense tried to get Rasell leaning to one side and fire the ball back across the crease, but it didn’t work.

"It’s always intense against Albert Lea," Rasell said. "In a scoreless game, you feel pressure as goalie whenever they bring the ball across midfield. They tried to spread us out, but our defense is really fast and we didn’t give them any clean shots."

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Rasell has given up only one goal in three games to start the season. The defense for the Packers will keep them in games, but the offensive side is still a work in progress.

Without the services of Gilberto Sanchez, who led the team in scoring the past two years but is ineligible this year, the Packers have had to look to other guys for goals. Mannocchio scored two goals in the win over Mankato East, and almost netted another with five minutes left in the second half Tuesday.

Mannocchio broke free and was headed toward the Albert Lea net when he was tackled. He fired the penalty kick to the right of goalie Jordan DeVries, but the Albert Lea netminder made a diving save and the fans in the visitors section let out a roar.

After the initial five minutes of overtime passed without incident, the sprinklers on the field let loose and the game had to be temporarily stopped. This got most of the players wet, but it didn’t change the outcome.

Jany Soth of Austin had the last chance when he slipped loose on a breakaway with 51 seconds left in overtime. Soth fired one shot, then nearly got to the rebound, but it wasn’t to be and the game ended in a tie.

"We had some guys step up and create offense in the last game, but we couldn’t break through for a goal in this one," Levisen concluded. "The kids played hard and it was another battle with Albert Lea. The guys are working hard, it will just take a little time to get the offense going. There was a nice crowd and hopefully, they’ll come back for our next home game."

Austin (1-0-2, 1-0-1 Big Nine) plays host to Winona on Thursday night at Art Hass Stadium.

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