PREVIEW: CITY HOST VSLT FC

On Wednesday Minneapolis City welcome VSLT FC to Osseo for the second installment of the Green Line Derby, and the match is even more critical than ever.

There are just three games left this season, and first place City have to take on VSLT and Duluth FC who are both within three points of the Crows. Win, and it’s title time for City. Lose, however…

The Crows are coming off the back of a very disappointing draw against La Crosse Aris.

Los Viejos are themselves coming off of a draw, a rather more creditable one though, in Rochester against Med City.

These remain two very evenly matched teams, all the more so because they have already faced off once this season and will know what to expect from each other.

Famously, Minneapolis City won 5-1 against the Sky Blues. Everything seemed to go right for City, especially in a first half that ended 4-0 to the good guys. Don’t expect that sort of thing to happen again, VSLT remain the conference’s most dogged defensive team and they will have learned from last game’s mistakes.

Instead, look for a tightly contested game between two teams with strong defenses. The first goal could be critical, if there are goals at all.

Midfielder Ian Smith was all positivity, “despite a tough result everyone is positive and looking forward to a huge week. We are super motivated and need to use the result as a pick-me-up and finish strong here.”

 

INJURY UPDATE

Minneapolis City has been blighted by injuries this entire season, and the over-the-top physicality by that in-town opponent in recent games did not help things.

The Crows have lost Issac Friendt and Ben Wexler for the rest of the regular season, and probably Branden McGarrity and Whitney Browne as well. The latter three will be hoping to make a playoffs appearance should City get that far, but it remains to be seen how quickly they can get back to 100% and re-integrated into the team.

Trey Benhart remains day-to-day after he picked up an injury against TwinStars, though that loss is helped by the return of Myles Norville from a muscle complaint.

Will Kidd is nursing a knock, but should be available for Wednesday’s game though he also remains day-to-day.

Fullback Aaron Olson, also injured against TwinStars, has had light workouts with the team but is only questionable for Wednesday’s game.

 

VSLT scouting report

The Sky Blues need a win as desperately as City do, and they’ll throw everything they can at the Crows. In particular, look for midfielder Boris Zaraguro—a former professional in Ecuador’s top division—to make an appearance. He is as excellent a player as his CV suggests, and he’s Beckham-esque in his free kick ability.

Beyond that, VSLT will attempt to clog the middle and keep things tight at the back.

The secret of their success this season has been to keep games close, keep the ball in front of them, and look to grab a goal from a set piece or a counterattack. It’s classic “cup football”, and a smart approach for the NPSL short season.

 

Managing expectations

A club of City’s profile—and with City’s fan base—will always face and have to deal with high expectations, but in this case it’s about managing personal expectations.

The spate of injuries and the sheer number of games in such a short time—not helped by the rescheduled TwinStars game—would wear out any team, not least a team without the ability to rotate players as it would like.

And still, this is a group that has shown exceptional grit and togetherness to get to this stage.

It is a group that has weathered a lot. It has done so without losing focus or desire—and those emotions, and managing the expectations for how they want to play within the power of those emotions, is going to be critical.

This week sees not only the Green Line Derby match on Wednesday but the visit of Duluth on Saturday. It is a potentially defining week for the players, and they know that they can write their own story.

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