MINNEAPOLIS — For the first team all season Minneapolis City were scored on, but it mattered little as three second-half goals capped a commanding performance from the Crows as they beat rival Duluth FC 3-2 in North Conference action. With the win, City remain unbeaten and top of the table at 4-0-0.
Beautiful weather and a full house had Edor Nelson Field rocking from the first whistle, and Minneapolis City responded to the atmosphere and occasion with verve. The tone for the game was set early: the Crows hogged possession, carved chances, and challenged Duluth goalkeeper Brendan Dally to the fullest. In the first 10 minutes alone, both Will Kidd and Lionel Vang each saw two excellent chances stopped by Dally–Vang bringing out an excellent foot save from Dally just six minutes into the match.
“Our press was giving the Duluth defensive line fits, and Dally was left cleaning everything up” said Jon Bisswurm. “He did a great job as the last line of defense.”
The Crows, well drilled by head coach Matt vanBenschoten, were organized, fluid, and progressive in possession and attack.
The Donkeys, meanwhile, got men behind the ball, defended deep, and looked to hit it long to talented striker Sidney Warden. Yet, that didn’t seem like a bad strategy when, in the 37th minute, a poor turnover allowed Warden to pick up the ball near the top of the City 18 and fire across goalkeeper Matt Elder. It was a goal from nothing, as against the run of play as a goal is possible to be. It was still a goal though, and Warden celebrated by shushing the boisterous home fans. It was not a celebration that aged well.
The second half started similarly to the first, with City on the ball, on the attack, and in the Duluth half of the field. Another sustained bout of possession resulted in Justin Oliver skipping wide around the fullback and placing a perfect cross only just out of the reach of Dally, but in the reach of Medo Youssef. Youssef slid in to meet the cross and lightly tapped home to level the scores.
Just five minutes later, Will Kidd gave City the lead. Leaping like a startled gazelle, Kidd kissed the ball with the forelock of his curls to direct it into the far corner. Dally could do nothing.
Duluth, however, had an almost immediate riposte and, in fact, had started to play into a game that, in the first half, had almost entirely passed them by. More direct play from the Donkeys got Warden through on goal and he made no mistake. The scores were notted at 2-2 in the 53rd minute.
The home side remained eager to break the deadlock. Substitute Miles Stockman-Wills, playing at right back, was playing almost like an auxiliary winger. The extra body in attack created openings, but Dally remained impressive in goal. The Duluth netminder denied Kevin Andrews twice from close range, pulled off a double save from Oliver and Youssef, and continued to hold the Crows at bay.
As City poured players forward, spots started to open up for the Duluth counterattack. Matt Elder had to be quick off of his line to deny Warden when the striker was through on goal.
That became a key play as, just minutes later, midfielder Brayan Lopez was on the end of a tidy passing sequence, used quick feet to dance past the despairing slides of the Duluth centerbacks, and fired in the winner.
He tore off toward his teammates in celebration as Edor Nelson Field erupted, the earlier shushing clearly forgotten.
The final ten minutes were uneventful. City were content to kill the game out with possession and when they lost the ball centerbacks Jonah Garcia and Max Kent easily dealt with the long aerial balls pumped forward by Duluth. By the final whistle, the party had already started in Minneapolis while the visitors were reduced to swearing in frustration. Top play, a seesaw match, and tetchiness at the end: this one had it all.
“I was really proud of how we played” said head coach Matt vanBenschoten. “The win itself was huge for us, but to be down at half and be able to battle back through some adversity against a good team like Duluth is important as we think about the season. We needed to take a couple punches to see how we respond. That we took the punch, stuck with our game, kept working together, and got the three points was a big moment for us.”