It’s been a long time coming, but on Saturday Minneapolis City are back at it!

The back-to-back NPSL North Conference champions travel to Sioux Falls for a 7:00pm match at Yankton Trail Park. Please note that this is a soccer complex similar to the National Sports Center, only without the main stadium. That means that you will have to bring your own seating, food and drink, and that the match will not be streamed for fans in Minnesota.

The Crows looked formidable in their 5-1 win over a very good Karen team on Saturday, though there were one of two defensive wobbles in the second half that will give Sioux Falls some heart. While the Thunder have never had much luck against City, drawing one and losing five, they are under new management, have a new coaching staff, and themselves won 5-1 in their last preseason match against UPSL side Dakota Young Stars.

The short season means that every point matters and these early season matches regularly throw up surprise results–like the 1-1 draw in Sioux Falls in the 2018 season opener. City went on to win the conference undefeated, but for a time the dropped points threatened to define the season. With Sioux Falls a revamped and reinvigorated club, they will be looking to that result as proof that they can challenge for points while the Crows will be working hard to stay on their perch.

SIOUX FALLS SCOUTING REPORT

Head coach Ryan Beier will look to create a new team, culture, and system for the Thunder. He will do so, however, with a core of South Dakota players.

Brennan Haggerty, son of new owner Daniel Haggerty, is a standout at Northwestern College in Iowa and will look to pull the strings in midfield and link with forward Tyler Limmer, who City fans have seen in action before. He’s always been among Sioux Falls’ most threatening players.

He is joined by goalkeeper Mynor Enriquez, midfielder Eric Beltran, and defender Attenh Zia as returning Thunder players who will look to succeed in the more structured environment that the new group promises.

“There is a lot to be said for being the unknown quantity” said co-founder Jon Bisswurm “and while we know the returning guys and guys like [Gustavus midfielder] Ethan Glissendorf, there are enough new players, there is a new coach, there is a new system–lots we don’t know about what they will be like. They’re a wildcard. It will be a good match-up.”

CITY SCOUTING REPORT

As always, because of the relentless focus on local talent, fans will recognise the core of the City team. Stalwarts like Will Kidd, Aaron Olson, Max Steigwardt, Ian Smith, Abdallah Bah, and Charlie Adams are back for another year flying with the murder. That foundation, in addition to their quality, given the Crows a level of consistency, chemistry, and cohesion that other sides often lack, especially early in the season. Making that most of that will be a key for head coach Matt vanBenschoten as he seeks to win another North Conference title.

Most intriguing, especially after losing last season to the pandemic, are the new players.

A number have stepped up from MC2, including the Gustavus triumvirate of Matt Gibbons, Arthur Parens, and Cole Schwartz. Each of them have won multiple All-MIAC awards and fit the City mould: intelligent, pacy, technical. Watching them dovetail with Lionel Vang, the 2019 MIAC Player of the Year, should be a delight. Two other new players to watch: Medo Youssef and Sam Thornton. Both were signed for the 2020 season and have had to wait to show their stuff. Youssef did on Saturday against Karen, scoring a golazo to double the lead.

Thornton will have to wait to make his debut, but the Marquette hitman is back in mid-May and has the ability to lead the line in a way nobody has since Branden McGarrity in 2018.Thornton is not the only player the Crows will miss in the early part of the season. Eli Goldman is recovering from an injury suffered during his college season, Mike Riley is still to return from college, and Aidan O’Driscoll is also still to return. Those are each game-changing players, but the Crows will rely on the depth of quality they have to get the result they need.

“Every preseason feels like it lasts forever, so there’s always a huge amount of excitement and anticipation that comes with it being the week of our season opener” said head coach Matt vanBenschoten. “As players and staff we feel really good about where we are. I’m excited to roll into Sioux Falls with a full squad of City veterans and a handful of players who will be making their debut for the Crows.”