High school soccer 2023: 20-year-old coach is just one of the oddities

Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune/TNS

Only 20 years old, Simley boys coach Cian Pearson is believed to be the youngest varsity soccer coach in Minnesota history. His age ranks as the second-most surprising part of his résumé.

Pearson never played a minute of high school varsity soccer.

He said his father "paid about a thousand dollars" so Pearson could join a club soccer team at age 12. But he "never even played, really. And so that got scrapped."

Pearson, a goalkeeper, played junior varsity throughout his Park of Cottage Grove career but didn't develop outside of the high school season.

"High school is more a consequence of club soccer," Pearson said. "That's kind of how it feeds in. So I could never really develop. I just didn't have that sort of support."

Still, he joined the team at Dakota County Technical College for one season and then launched himself into coaching. What he lacked in terms of playing time and opportunities as a kid has informed his coaching approach. Pearson holds a National C License through U.S. Soccer Federation and coaches the U17/U19 boys soccer teams within the Eagan-based Wave Soccer Club.

"We all play the same system on our teams," said Pearson, a junior varsity assistant at Simley last season. "So there is a pathway if you play well enough and if you have a good enough attitude. The ability to move up is empowering to all players on all our teams."

Pearson turns 21 in September, but his Spartans delivered an early present. A 3-2 win Aug. 26 at Apple Valley counted as his first varsity victory. The result validated Pearson's optimism despite a 5-3 loss at Rochester Century two days earlier. The starting group against Century contained eight sophomores. They built and then lost a 2-0 lead but never quit battling.

"We want to win, but the goal is development," Pearson said. "And not just on the field, but as people first, players second. Holistically, that's really the idea. We're a young team and we're being patient but still trying to compete now."

Rosemount girls rebuilding

There is a slight resemblance between the current Rosemount girls soccer varsity roster and the one that won the 2022 Class 3A tournament. Nine players returned. However, nine seniors graduated, taking a huge amount of talent and experience out of the program. Head coach Gretchen Stramel is gone, too.

"We need to be patient as we get to know each other and a new system of play," said Todd Farrington, who also coaches the Irish boys team. "But we are already seeing 'lightbulb' moments and I am confident we'll be challenging for another conference title in spite of all the challenges we are facing."

Senior captains Sydney Gilbertson and Ava Thompson will lead a younger group of athletes who will be learning how best to play with new teammates, a new coach and at a quicker pace.

"We have many athletes coming in who are playing for some of the top clubs in the metro area. We just need to learn each other's tendencies and strengths," Farrington said.

Rosemount still boasts a sturdy spine including Gilbertson at forward, Thompson as the defensive anchor and midfielders Skylar Heimerl, Molly Miller and Chloe McGill. The retooled Irish started the season 1-1-1 but expect to be a factor come October.

"Many people see this as a rebuilding year for the Irish," Farrington said. "And they are correct. But we like it when they think that. Even though we graduated so many seniors, this program is so deep with talent. We'll surprise a lot of people this fall."

Pioneers on the move

Hill-Murray's search for boys soccer redemption will require a different postseason path.

The Pioneers, undefeated until the 2022 Class 2A tournament championship game, were placed in Section 3 by the Minnesota State High School League for the next two seasons. They had been in Section 4.

Top players remain in senior forward/midfielder Jacob Dinzeo and junior defender Dane Paul. Speaking of defense, the Pioneers are still their stingy selves. They allowed zero goals in the first three games this season after a remarkable 2022 regular season in which they conceded only one goal.

Ten metro girls to watch

Reese Elzen, Stillwater, sophomore, goalkeeper

Izzy Engle, Edina, senior, forward/midfield

Grace Estby, Wayzata, senior, forward/midfield

Maddyn Greenway, Providence Academy, sophomore, forward/midfield

Izabel Halunen, Woodbury, senior, defense

Isabel McEwan, Minneapolis Washburn, senior, forward/midfield

Berit Parten, Minnehaha Academy, senior, forward/midfield

Sophia Peer, Mahtomedi, junior, forward/midfield

Savanna Stockness, Mahtomedi, senior, defense

Sydney Sutherland, Blaine, senior, defense

Ten metro boys to watch

Jacob Dinzeo, Hill-Murray, senior, forward/midfield

Victor Espinoza Lopez, Apple Valley, senior, forward/midfield

Jake Hennen, Minnetonka, senior, forward/midfield

Everett Hoeppner, Holy Angels, senior, defense

Ashton Johnston, East Ridge, senior, forward/midfield

Christian Marin Lopez, Columbia Heights, senior, goalkeeper

Maid Medic, Spring Lake Park, senior, forward/midfield

Stiven Muellner, DeLaSalle, senior, forward/midfield

Dane Paul, Hill-Murray, junior, defense

Antwane Ruiz, Richfield, senior, forward/midfield

Boys schedules

Girls schedules