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Woodbury boys soccer: Injuries raise concerns for Royals in critical stretch

While holding on to second place in the conference after a big win and the first-place team coming up can energize a squad, the Woodbury Royals are just looking for a full lineup.

“We need to get healthy real quick if we want a chance to finish at the top of our conference,” Royals coach Joe Quintavalle said.

His squad beat Cretin Derham-Hall 2-1 in a key Suburban East Conference game on Tuesday, Sept. 17, which kept the Royals (6-2-1, 4-0-1 SEC) in the hunt for the title. The Royals play at first-place Stillwater (8-2-1, 5-0) on Thursday, and recent injuries may become a hindrance for the Royals. 

“We are going into the most difficult stretch of our season,” Quintavalle said. ”Every game we will play will be against excellent teams.” 

They lost Steve Jessen Howard to a back injury in their game at Hastings on Thursday, Sept. 19. He started the game despite hurting his back slightly in practice the day before, and he reinjured his back. 

The Royals’ 8-0 win at Hastings on a wet field from the rain turned even more costly with additional injuries. Jerit Sanden strained a quadriceps muscle and did not return, but he came back at their game on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Wayzata. Unfortunately, he reinjured his leg and didn’t return.

Goalkeeper Jake Simon had his third concussion at practice on Friday, Sept. 20, and he didn’t play in the Royals’ 3-0 loss at Wayzata. Freshman Oscar Mulvaney came up from the freshman team to be the backup goalkeeper.

“I was concerned because Jake had two concussions in the past,” Quintavalle said. ”He was a little dizzy so he sat out for a while but said he was fine and continued to practice. It turns out that he may have a pinched nerve and may be out for a couple of weeks.”

Mulvaney ended up taking the start as the Royals did not have their other varsity goalkeeper, Aaron Clark, available. The Royals had Chris Chiu out due to a concussion and Sam Hays out due to an ankle injury. Tayo Famodu also did not play due to a thigh contusion, but he will return for Tuesday’s game against Roseville (5-3-3, 3-1-1 SEC).

“So we had a tremendous amount of adversity to deal with on Saturday,” Quintavalle said.

Senior forward Sebastian Usurriaga had to step in at goal once following a yellow card on Mulvaney for a hand ball outside the box. Usurriaga stopped the penalty kick by the Trojans

”Wayzata had a free kick in shooting range and Sebastian made a diving stop on a great shot,” Quintavalle said. “We were able to put Oscar back in the game the next chance we had but this is something no team could have prepared for.”

Preparing for life without key players will also come as a challenge. Jessen Howard had one of the two goals in their win over CDH earlier in the week. Simon stopped 20 shots in four games, and he had 3-0-1 record in games started. Chiu, Hays and Sanden all have contributed in their various roles. Fortunately, the Royals still have leading scorers Matt Jessen Howard (16 points) and Brandon Bieszk (14 points). Jessen Howard had three assists at Hastings, and Bieszk had one of the two goals in the win over CDH.

—Matthew Davis