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Mr Soccer Finalist - Joe Eklund

By Corey Bulheller, 11/10/21, 12:00PM CST


Joe Eklund has been earned this honor and recognition from coaches across Minnesota. Joe put up an impressive 17 goals and 4 assists in 16 games this season. 

When asked about the recognition, Joe said "It was a great honor to be nominated for Mr. Soccer. I have been playing soccer my whole life so to end my High school career with that nomination really means a lot."

Then when asked about his highlight of his season and how Gitch has helped him, he said "One of the highlights of the high school season was scoring the winning goal against Cloquet on Senior night. Gitch has helped me become the player that I am today through the great coaches, teammates, and competition."

Scott Anderson, head coach of Denfeld said, "Joe Eklund joined Denfeld soccer as a freshman on the JV team where his play and passion for the game stood out.  His Sophomore year, you would find him igniting our play from the left mid.  He remained a midfielder as a Junior, playing his role well -- he helped us reach the Section finals in each of the last 3 years, but he was really under the radar to other teams since they were focused on other great players for us.  

Then came this season.  We moved Joe to a forward, "number 9" position and suddenly he flourished. He became a marked man.  Literally, teams that knew who he was created a game plan around covering him like a warm coat on a cold evening.  I watched more than one opposing player watch his every move; even if the action was 50 yards away from him. If Joe took one step right, so did his defender.  If we moved him to a midfield role, that defender would follow.  Yet Joe often found a way to play the 9 with his back to goal, send a pass back, and then find the right run into space. Or he could turn and break free, finding gaps in the defense and do his work to either score goals or hold the ball enough to open up lanes for his teammates to have a go.

As a person, Joe is an exceptional, but humble young man.  He was among the first to volunteer to help with team projects such as working at the local food bank.  When told he made All State, I might have heard a smile on his face over the phone.  When told he was a Mr. Soccer nominee?  He was truly in disbelief.  “Wait, what?” or something like that was his response.  I had to reassure him I wasn’t kidding.  He deserved the recognition.

Joe was personally well liked by our local opponents too – many of whom he played alongside in Gitchi Gummi soccer. I’d often witness a handshake or hug from a high school opponent-and-Gitch-teammate after a game.  Even when we lost to Cloquet in the finals, he was out congratulating CEC players, and was one of the first to seek out and thank the referees for calling a tough, physically exhausting, back and forth game.

All in all, Denfeld soccer, and I think soccer in Northeastern MN was better this year with him in it.  I’m proud of this young man who is so deserving of the honor of being nominated for Mr. Soccer. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him in and out of soccer." 

Seth Eklund, Joe's Gitchi Gummi coach said, "Joe is the type of player a coach loves to have on his team.  He has always been the type of player that puts team success over his own.  Whether it’s playing out on the wing or as a striker, Joe has the ability to impact the game in many ways.  He never misses a training session and has a quiet lead by example mentality.


Joe is one of the best finishers I have ever coached but what stands out most about his game is his footwork.  He has the ability to break down defenders and create scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself.  Joe had a great season this past year with Gitch playing some of the states best teams and I really think it helped him gain confidence going into his high school season where he really flourished.  His U17 Premier 1 team made it to the Midwest Presidents Cup which was a first for Gitch.


Joe is a very humble and unselfish young man that puts team success above his own accomplishments.  I’m glad to see all your years of hard work and year round dedication pay off with this great honor.  Congratulations Joe your future is bright."

Everyone at Gitchi Gummi would like to congratulate Joe on this nomination.

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