Minneapolis City won their third on the trot, comfortably beating visiting Sioux Falls Thunder 2-0. Two first half goals were all the Crows needed to make it three wins from three to start the season.
It has been a gentle start to the season for Minneapolis City, with three home games against sides that missed the playoffs last year. It gets considerably more difficult from here. Midweek, they visit cross-town rivals TwinStars. On Saturday, they host Duluth FC. Then, they face an in-form and hungry Med City FC. The business end of the season starts now.
And yet, on Friday, the match had much of the feel of a training game.
Minneapolis City were out of the gates quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Nick Hutton forced the first save of the game with a fierce shot in the first minute. It was a sign of things to come. Hutton, forward Tim Wills, and opposite side winger Abdallah Bah were a dizzing whir of speed, movement, and trickery. Ably supported by attacking midfielder Samuel Ruiz Plaza, the Thunder were getting carved up almost at will. It was only a matter of time, really, and so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Tim Wills fire City into the lead. What was a surprise, simply because beauty at the level achieved is always unexpected, was Wills winning the ball off of the centerback, stepping forward to meet the ball on the half volley, and looping a delicate chip over the Sioux Falls goalkeeper from 35 yards out. Truly, a goal of the season contender.
After the goal, Sioux Falls found some traction in the game. They became a little more direct. They won a couple of corners. They worked the ball into a dangerous area and should have scored except they ran into the reflexes and strength of Crows goalkeeper Matt Elder who made a fine save. That seemed to wake Minneapolis City back up and the attacks recommenced.
Just minutes later, City would have the ball in the back of the net again. Nick Hutton had latched onto a Ruiz Plaza through ball, but the linesman had his flag up.
The right side was the danger side with Stegman’s paid Hutton and Aaron Olson combining well, Olson a regular threat on the overlap. And indeed, with the half nearing a close, it was Olson on the overlap who cause the danger. Only, instead of looking to cross of cut the ball back, the speedy defender danced into the box, fooled two defenders as he switched the ball to his left foot, and rifled an unstoppable shot home to double the lead.
The start of the second half saw the first bout of sustained pressure from Sioux Falls, who were almost rewarded for their effort only to see their shot caroom off of the crossbar. And then again, like in the first half, City were jolted awake.
Unlike in the first half, the Crows couldn’t quite find the back of the net. Credit has to go to the Thunder goalkeeper. His save on Nick Hutton’s close range blast was a highlight of a good set of saves, and he did well otherwise too, highlighted by a foot save on a cutback from Martin Browne that would have otherwise found Will Kidd for the easiest of tap-ins.
With a comfortable lead and the sting completely out of the game as Minneapolis City dominated possession, the game meandered to a close. Yet again, the Crows had come away with three points. Yet again, they hadn’t ever had to switch gears. Which makes the upcoming matches all the more fascinating as they will be a huge test for a team that hasn’t been tested at all yet.