116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Michael Nelson was a known scoring threat as a sophomore on last season’s senior-dominated Iowa City West boys’ soccer team that finished second in Class 3A.
This season, opponents have made it a priority to know where he is at all times.
Despite that, Nelson has been able to score 13 times already this season, tied for the Class 3A lead and just one off his 2021 total that ranked second on the team.
His two-goal performance in a 4-2 win Friday at Iowa City High exemplified the scoring versatility that makes him hard to stop. Nelson tied the score at 1-1 in the first half with a 30-plus yard free kick blast, then made it a 4-1 game late in the second half by softly lobbing a bouncing ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
He does have a favorite type.
“Breakaways,” Nelson said. “That’s probably what I had the most of. I like to think I’m good at it, but sometimes I miss.”
After scoring four goals in wins against Des Moines Lincoln and Cedar Rapids Prairie the week prior, Nelson did miss a couple opportunities against top-ranked Iowa City Liberty (so did everyone else on a windy day; the Lightning won in PKs after a scoreless 100 minutes).
Still, he came away encouraged after that game.
“I think most of us, as a young team, were kind of nervous going into the Liberty game,” Nelson said. “Us coming so close and losing in PKs, we kind of knew that we could beat City High.”
West (5-2) moved up to No. 8 in this week’s Class 3A rankings ahead of Tuesday’s game at Linn-Mar. The Lions will surely make a priority of knowing where No. 7 is.
“The downside of him scoring all our goals is that he’s gonna make a name for himself here pretty soon,” West Coach Brad Stiles said. “I think even City High tried to man mark him at certain points throughout the game. It’s something that we’re going to have to address as a team as far as someone else is going to have to find a way to score because Michael’s shoulders aren’t that big.”
Liberty defense remains unscored upon
Seven games into the season, Iowa City Liberty still has not given up a goal. It’s one of two boys’ teams that can say that — and the other, Sioux City Heelan, has played five fewer games.
The Lightning followed up their win in PKs over Iowa City West with a 3-0 victory Thursday at North Scott to move to 7-0 ahead of games Tuesday at Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Thursday at home against Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Maybe just as important, Liberty already has scored 38 goals this year after scoring 35 all of last season.
“It goes hand in hand,” Liberty Coach Sonny Travis said. “The defense is obviously strong. It gives us opportunities to counter and that’s been really important.”
The XI: What else stood out this week
1. Hudson is the new No. 1 team in the Class 2A Iowa High School Soccer Coaches Association boys’ rankings. The Pirates (2-0) might be the most extreme example of the early-season volatility we’re seeing in those rankings with a formula determining them this season instead of a coaches vote. They were unranked last week and their only game since then was last Monday, a 4-3 win over then-No. 2 (1A) North Fayette Valley.
2. Dyersville Beckman vaulted to No. 2 in the Class 1A boys’ rankings after delivering an early statement in the Wamac with a 5-1 win over then-No. 10 (2A) Solon. The Trailblazers (3-0) have two more big games this week, Tuesday at 2A No. 6 Marion and Thursday at home against 2A No. 15 Center Point-Urbana.
3. Pleasant Valley went from unranked to No. 3 in the Class 3A boys’ rankings. The Spartans (4-0) brought back eight starters after winning last year’s Class 3A state championship with a 20-3 record, but found themselves unranked in this season’s first rankings release with the new formula. Wins over then-No. 3 Bettendorf, 1-0, and at Linn-Mar, 2-1, changed that.
4. Mount Vernon snapped an impressive four-game win streak for the Independence girls to open the season with a 2-1 win last Tuesday. Drake signee Maia Bentley scored both goals.
5. West Des Moines Dowling jumped to No. 5 in the Class 3A boys’ rankings after being unranked last week. A 3-2 double-overtime win at No. 14 Des Moines East was the catalyst for that move, a win that came via an improbable goal. Goalkeeper Diego Leon booted a goal kick that bounced over the East keeper and in for a 115-yard game-winner.
6. Mid-Prairie remains the top-ranked Class 1A boys’ team with a 6-0 record. The Golden Hawks narrowly remained unbeaten last Tuesday when Jarrett Hoffman scored in overtime for a 1-0 win at Tipton, but they were dominant in 8-0 and 10-0 wins over Cedar Valley Christian and Keokuk later in the week.
7. No. 7 Pleasant Valley (5-2) is the highest-ranked Eastern Iowa team in the latest IGHSAU Class 3A rankings. Of the top six, only No. 3 Council Bluffs Lincoln comes from outside the CIML.
8. Another rankings shake-up. Council Bluffs Lewis Central (4-2) won last Monday’s Class 2A 1-vs.-2 showdown over Glenwood 1-0, but fell all the way to No. 8 this week after a 1-0 loss to 3A Sioux City North. Glenwood (5-1), meanwhile, went from No. 2 to No. 12.
9. At 9-0, Ankeny is the new No. 1 team in the Class 3A boys’ rankings. The Hawks have outscored their opponents 27-4. Iowa City Liberty slipped to No. 2.
10. Of Solon’s 10 shots on goal against Dyersville Beckman on Thursday, one crossed the goal line — and it was the only one necessary. Morgan Link’s goal gave the 1A No. 14 Spartans a 1-0 win. Now 5-1 overall, they’re the only Wamac girls’ team that hasn’t lost to a conference foe yet (4-0, 3-0 East Division).
11. The 3A No. 11 Linn-Mar girls improved to 4-0 with a 7-1 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy at Clark Field on Thursday, but the most important stat of the night was $3,500, the amount the teams raised for the I Know Jack Foundation as part of their Kickin’ Cancer night.