On Saturday, Minneapolis City will make the trip up 35W to take on Duluth FC in a much anticipated much against two teams with playoffs, nay, championship ambitions.
Last season, Duluth was able to grab a last-minute equalizer to draw a simply brutal game in Minneapolis. Their raw physical play is how they picked up the moniker Donkeys. But there is more to the team than that, and they showed it while defeating City 2-1 in the return match in Duluth.
These are two evenly-matched teams with polar-opposite styles and it will be a fascinating match-up.
“Since last year, we have trained hard and come together as a team and organization,” said midfielder Ben Wexler.
“Not achieving our goals last year I think was ultimately a good thing. It made us realize that things are not just given to us. The hard work and sacrifice from everyone in MPLS City is showing this year and we will take all that into the game this weekend vs Duluth FC. This is a huge game and we are excited. We are ready. #brotherhood”
Isaac Friendt remains out with a high ankle sprain as does Nick Hutton, who is also struggling with an ankle knock. Hutton is close to a return. Midfielder AJ Albers is day-to-day with a back problem.
Forward Juan Louis is back from college and ready to see the first for the first time in Minneapolis City colors this weekend.
However, midfielders Shae Bottum and Tommy Katsiyiannis are unavailable for selection this weekend, but should work into the team once they are back in Minneapolis.
Duluth scouting report
Duluth was in Rochester on Wednesday, where the Donkeys played out a 0-0 draw against Med City. They were without talisman Kyle Farrar and it showed. However, all indications are that the ginger frontman will be available this weekend to bolster Duluth’s attack.
There are a lot of similarities to last season in the early games for Duluth.
They were able to get a last-minute equalizer to draw at #TechnicalDifficultiesFC and they smashed La Crosse Aris into tiny little pieces with a 7-1 win.
In attack, it’s a familiar set-up that revolves around Farrar. Pace on the wings and a mobile target striker was the recipe for success last season and, outside of being blanked by Med City this week, it has worked well. Also, the height and aerial ability throughout the team make them very dangerous on set plays. There are goals in this team. They have scored 14 goals in three competitive games against Dakota, #TechnicalDifficultiesFC, and Aris.
It’s (still) about getting started quickly
Last match showed just how important it is to get off to a strong start. Some cheekiness from Max Stiegwardt and Whitney Browne and a huge save from James Neher set the Crows on their way and they game was over in a half an hour.
Adam Pribyl commented “in our last match I was obviously pleased with the result. With a win like that, you consider a number of things: tactical awareness, the other team, the atmosphere, and finally, individual performances. We finally saw the fruits of Whitney Browne’s labor. He has been a beast in training this year, and has the most shots on net for our team this season. He found his finishing touch and it was devastating for Dakota.”
Starting quickly is going to be just as critical this game, but every last second is going to be important against a team like Duluth.
So is the players keeping their cool. Duluth are a team that kick, niggle, and otherwise unsettle their opposition. Focus will be critical.
Pribyl continued, “I don’t think there are any doubts on what is at stake. Duluth won the league last year and is an impressive, physical side. We attacked training this week to prepare for their style of play, and it all comes down to mental preparedness. This is the second year for everyone in the NPSL North Conference, and for me the teams that will do well over time will be the teams that strive to get better every day, and put a consistent product on the field. I think we have already shown we are doing those things well, so I am excited for Saturday.”