Minneapolis City laid down a marker on Saturday, routing Dakota Fusion 5-0 behind a Whitney Browne hat trick and surging to the top of the conference table. It was expected to be a close game, with only two points separating the sides at the end of last season. It was not a close game.
As head coach Adam Pribyl had promised, City were quick out of the game. The central midfield pairing of Max Stiegwardt and Ian Smith was effective on both sides of the ball, and in fact it was Stiegwardt, showing a level of impudence that would get a lesser man banished from the land, who nipped in to steal a Fusion pass, looked up, and found the tiniest of spaces to place the loveliest of chips past a despairing Nate Levy in the Fusion goal.
It was pure inspiration.
A legitimate golazo.
It was just the beginning.
The 10 minutes after the opener were the best spell for Fusion, and there were able to work the wings and find a few crosses in behind the City defense. However, “Big Game” James Neher commands his box and was able to scoop up anything that came his way.
The one time it was played out of his reach, the big goalkeeper produced a full-stretch stop of astonishing agility to keep the away team at bay.
The Crows had been looking dangerous, but the second goal appeared as if conjured from thin air.
Whitney Browne, acting as a footballing Albus Dumbledore, chased what seemed to be a last cause. His movement and feints, though, were just enough to throw of the Fusion defender, and a mishit backless was easily snaffled up by the speedy winger. He made no mistake when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
2-0 to Minneapolis City with less than a half hour gone.
Browne, playing in the stadium of his alma mater, wasn’t finished yet.
With the Crows completely in the ascendency, great work from Stiegwardt and Kidd were enough to release Whitney Browne and, again one-on-one with Levy, he again made no mistake.
The first half ended 3-0 to Minneapolis City.
Fusion had comeback against the Crows last season, and the home side was keep to ensure that didn’t happen again.
Once more, they were out the blocks like lightning.
Stiegwardt continued his impressive shift in the midfield, spraying the ball across the field with pinpoint accuracy and cavalier insouciance.
In the 56th minute, Will Kidd cut the ball back for Stiegwardt. His stinging shot was somehow palmed out of the goal by Levy, but only as far as Whitney Browne. The winger made no mistake from close range and completed his hat trick.
Mere minutes later Martin Browne, elder brother to Whitney and introduced at halftime in place of Ben Wexler, produced a moment of brilliance.
Hardworking forward Branden McGarrity laid the ball off for Browne nearly 25 yards from goal. Browne, sensing opportunity like a dog senses bacon, fired a veritable Exocet missile of a shot into the top corner of the net.
Levy, despairing, was able to get fingers to the ball, but it was hit with such power that there was only ever one outcome.
Minneapolis City were up 5-0 with an hour gone.
At that point, with a frustrated Fusion team becoming slightly chippy, Pribyl began to ring the changes. The raft of substitutions changed the character of the game, but without City losing any sense of control of the outcome.
It was only in the dying embers of extra time that Fusion truly threatened.
A free kick from 20 yards out was fired in and went off the underside of the crossbar and out. No goal, and an impressive clean sheet to match the offensive performance.