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Pereira’s brace sends Midgets to state qualifiers

Mandan came to Dickinson for the WDA tournament play-in match to see which team's season would come to an end, and who would live to see another day.

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Fabricio Pereira takes the ball back to the center of the pitch after scoring a late equalizer. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

Overtime was needed Tuesday evening in Dickinson between Mandan and Dickinson in a WDA boys soccer tournament play-in game.

The match went to a golden goal format, with the first goal scored in overtime ending the game. Down 1-0 in regular time, Midgets’ full-back Fabricio Pereira would supply both goals to earn his team a 2-1 victory and send them to the next round of the WDA tournament.

A long and accurate throw-in by center-back Grant Bittner found Pereira for a powerful downward header to end the game with the homeside's spirits flying high.

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Fabricio Pereira celebrated his winning goal by taking his shirt off and running to his teammates on the sidelines. He would be yellow carded for the celebration. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

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“I can't describe the feeling with words … When I saw the ball go in I couldn't believe I scored and I took off my shirt because I was just so happy,” Pereira said. “I am really glad that I could score both goals for the team and get us to the next game.”

Coming into the game, Mandan had two distinct advantages; height, and a large rooster to pull from. Over the season Dickinson has dealt with excessive injuries, which was the coaching staff biggest worry going into the game.

“I think our main concern wasn't Mandan, it was the health of our team. We have had lots of injuries over the season and dealing with players that weren't able to play and other players having to step up and fill those spots,” Dickinson assistant coach Angie Shilman said. “On a 22 member roster we have two that aren't injured.”

The Midgets dominated possession in the first half, delivering six shots on goal, but with none coming to fruition. The Braves would try to counter, but goalkeeper Jace Hughes and the back line would keep out five shots in the first half.

The first goal came from Mandan forward Andrew Catalano, who struck with his left foot to put it past Hughes. With 17 minutes left in the game, Dickinson knew they had time to equalize, they just needed to hold their composure.

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Mandan's forward Andrew Catalano takes a left footed shot to grab the first goal in the game. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

“We knew it was going to take a lot of composure and leadership from our guys,” Dickinson assistant coach Dalton Nelson added. “We were focused on a lot of communication and keeping them level headed. We knew this was going to be a competitive game and even if you weren't wearing a captain's armband, you are a captain and leader out there.”

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After their first goal, Mandan switched formation to deliver a final attacking blow, with only three defenders on the backline. This would prove costly as Dickinson made tactical changes themselves bringing Pereira into the attack. The coaching staff all agreed it was a gamble, but one that paid off after Pereira tied the game with less than five minutes remaining.

“It was a collective decision and I know it may seem like a gamble, but when you're losing 1-0, you have to try and make a difference to score, ” Dickinson head coach Akindeji Oluwafemi said. “These guys give 100% even with injuries and they just make us proud.”

The Midgets did not rush to score a winning goal before the end of the second half, but carried the momentum into overtime for Pereira to get his second goal.

The Midgets faced the Braves twice in the regular season, losing to them in their opening game 0-1 at home and tying with them in Mandan 1-1. This win was more than just redemption, but a chance for the young Dickinson program to show a premier presence in the region.

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Goalie Will Mickelson offer a hand to his teammate dealing with the sinking feeling of their season ending. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson now heads into the state qualifiers where they will face last season’s state champions Bismarck Century. Senior center midfielder Oti Akenteng expressed his eagerness for the opportunity, wholeheartedly believing his team can go all the way.

“It's like the best feeling right now. With this as my last year I just can’t wait for us to win our next game versus Century and to go to our first state match,” Oti Akenteng said.“I believe in myself, first and foremost and I believe in our team.”

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Related Topics: SOCCERDICKINSON MIDGETS
Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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