The season finally started for all North Conference teams this weekend, with Duluth FC playing their first game, a wild win over Joy Athletic, while Minneapolis City, in action since the beginning of May, won their third straight.
Duluth’s home win against Joy was a seesaw match that saw the hosts run out to an early 2-0 lead only to fall behind 3-2 before staging a late comeback effort. The match was won in the 86th minute when Sidney Warden headed home from a corner–their fourth in succession against a pinned-in Joy–to make it 4-3. Don’t expect the defensive issues to continue. This is a team that has only just come together and every day spent training as a team will make them more familiar with each other, and much harder to beat.
Minneapolis City, on the other hand, had about as routine a match as you can get. They defeated La Crosse Aris 4-0, a mirror of their last trip to Wisconsin to face Aris. It continued their perfect start to the season, three wins out of three, and City have yet to be scored. However, the Crows know not to expect 85% possession on Wednesday. Duluth is a major step up in quality from the teams they have faced so far.
Looking at the squad, Duluth have recruited even better than in previous years–and they have always had strong teams.
The Duluth teams are built on the back of a nation and worldwide recruiting effort, heavy on players originally from Europe and South America who are in the United States to play soccer at their respective universities. This gives Duluth strong, seasoned, technical players in every position on the field. With talent like Sidney Warden, an Englishman who plays college ball at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania, who scored two against Joy Athletic on the weekend, the Donkeys will be dangerous offensively. With the late start to their season, they should have all of their college players in Duluth and training with the team before their visit to Minneapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS CITY REPORT
The bad news is that the Crows will be missing a few players due to injury: both Aaron Olson and Abdallah Bah are unavailable for selection due to muscle strains (though both should be available soon).
The good news is that the Crows have seen players return: Max Kent and Kevin Andrews both appeared against Aris (Andrews even got on the score sheet) and Brayan Lopez is back and available for selection. Though there are still a few players yet to return, it is almost a full squad to choose from as City strive to remain unbeaten.
“This is a big mid-week game” said head coach Matt vanBenschoten. “Duluth showed last weekend that they can compete and be very dangerous even in their first game. If we want to win this game we have to be better than we’ve shown in our first three games. That sounds ridiculous because we haven’t conceded and three games into the season we are the highest scoring team in the nation. But we all know we haven’t been at our best and this is the week to show everyone what that looks like.”