By Jim Rueda
---- — MANKATO — The fans showed up, the weather cooperated, the concessions did a fair amount of business. About the only thing lacking was Mankato East's offense.
The Cougars took on local rival Mankato West in the annual Pack the Stands boys soccer game on Saturday in front of nearly 1,100 fans. While East held its own on defense, it didn't mount many scoring opportunities.
The result was a 2-0 shutout for West at Thomas O. Anderson Fields.
"We didn't put much pressure on them today," East coach Jerrad Aspelund said. "We have some players out with injuries but that's no excuse.
"We just seem to be playing to get by the last few games. It's like we're just trying to survive. You're not going to win a lot of games playing like that."
The teams were scoreless until late in the first half. At the 35:14 mark, West's Jacob Makela found himself with the ball near the goal mouth and a defender in front of him. He calmly slid the ball over to Dillon Lambert and buried it in the cross corner for a 1-0 West lead.
At 57:29, Lambert scored again, taking a feed from Paul Esslinger to give the Scarlets their 2-0 edge.
"It was fun today," Lambert said. "It's nice to play in front of so many fans, especially when you score, because then they start cheering and that pumps you up for the next time."
The Scarlets lost 5-1 to East earlier in the season, but West head coach Leonard Woelfel felt his team was a bit more disciplined on Saturday.
"In that first game we came out with a lot of confidence, but then East scored the first goal and that kind of took it out of us," he said. "Today we came out focused and we stayed focused. We had some nice passes and scored the first goal and things just went our way after that."
West ended up outshooting the Cougars 9-5. Sam Farley got the shutout with five saves. East goalie Derek Helms, who was filling in for the injured Nick Olson, played well and didn't have much of a chance on either of the two goals he let in.
"He did fine," Aspelund said. "Both goals were pretty wide open. He was probably our MVP today.
"We need to find a way to turn this things around. We're not headed in a very good direction right now. But give (the Scarlets) credit, they played well. They did what they had to do to win."
Despite the outcome, Aspelund said Pack the Stands is an event his team always looks forward.
"It's great to see so many people come out. It's good for the sport, it's good for the community, it's good for the two schools. And the weather couldn't have been any better."
West improves to 8-3 overall and remains 3-2 in the Big Nine Conference. East falls to 5-4-3 and is 2-2-1 in the Big Nine.