PREVIEW: GREEN LINE DERBY

It’s a huge match on Saturday—the Green Line Derby between Minneapolis City and St. Paul’s VSLT FC. With these two teams sitting in the top two spots in the table and unbeaten, it’s a match with meaning beyond local bragging rights.

Last season, the Crows won both games 2-1. The first, in St. Paul, an epic comeback after going down to 10 men. The second, in Minneapolis, an epic comeback after VSLT went down to 10 men. Both were extremely close, hard fought games and this Saturday’s installment should be no different.

AJ Albers celebrates the winner against VSLT in last year’s match in St Paul.

Minneapolis-born midfielder Ian Smith is up for the game. “I’m excited for a tough match this weekend, as they will be a good team. I’m also hoping we build off the positive second half in Duluth so we can get three vital away points on Saturday.”

 

INJURY UPDATE

May has been extremely unkind to Minneapolis City.

Isaac Friendt remains out with a high ankle sprain suffered against Med City. Both Ben Wexler and Branden McGarrity are out for at least a few weeks with injuries sustained in the game at Duluth. Whitney Browne will again be in the squad, but has a knock that will again restrict his minutes—if he features at all, a tough break for coming off of his National Player of the Week performance last Saturday.

Additionally, midfielders Shae Bottum and Tommy Katsiyiannis remain unavailable until they return to Minneapolis.

Positively, Nick Hutton has been cleared to play after his ankle injury from the Sioux Falls game and Max Stiegwardt is back from emergency leave. Those are big gets, but the injury spectre is very much haunting City right now.

 

VSLT scouting report

Defense. They say it wins championships. It has certainly propelled the Sky Blues up the table, and they have not conceded a goal since giving up two in their opener away at Dakota Fusion.

Since then they have blanked TwinStars, Med City, Sioux Falls and La Crosse. Three of those games were 1-0 wins, and with new signing Boris Zaraguro’s ability with dead balls they are always a threat to steal a goal, park the bus and walk away with three points.

Our man in St. Paul summarized what he has seen so far. “This is a rugged team, very hard to break down and willing to limit their adventure more than they did last season. It means that there is much less space to exploit, and also means that they suck teams forward giving them space behind the back four to run into. Look for them to play hard on the counter, look for them to be excellent with set pieces, especially free kicks, and look for them to win a lot of games this way. It’s a tactical set-up almost perfectly calibrated for NPSL.”

City have scored in every game, but have also given up the odd goal when perhaps they didn’t have to.

It will be a fascinating game to watch as two contrasting styles of play meet.

 

Defense first?

Minneapolis City has yet to grab a road win, in both cases taking leads and only to watch in frustration as an equalizer was scored—thinking, no doubt, that it could have been prevented.

Head coach Adam Pribyl expressed that sense of points lost. “I was disappointed with the result last Saturday vs Duluth. Two away games where we got a point which is fine, but at the end of the day I truly felt we created more chances on goal and outplayed them in the second half especially.”

Injuries are an issue to contend with, but with Max Stiegwardt back there is the opportunity to run out the central midfield that featured against Dakota Fusion.

Pribyl continued, “we are through May and getting into June. This is where the conference will be won. With injuries mounting and guys being reintegrated to teams coming back from college. The conference will be determined by 3 points or less, so every game is critical.  Now it is time for guys to step up with focus, effort, and courage.

VSLT has grinded out some wins recently, but we have a strong roster and plan in place for them. If we execute our game plan, and key players put in strong performances, I fully anticipate our first road win of the season.”

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