In the short NPSL season every game is a critical game. And yet, tonight’s match-up against Minnesota TwinStars feels extra important.
A loss isn’t critical. A win, however, could be massive—it will vault Minneapolis City to the top of the table and give them a huge 10 point lead on third-placed Duluth FC.
There is more than that to the match. The first is history. Last season, the TwinStars were twice victorious against Minneapolis City. A sort of bogey team for the Crows. They boast a very similar squad and the same tactical approach. It will be a very difficult match-up for the good guys.
Adam Pribyl commented “Twinstars always pull out all the stops for us. But we know that, we know how they play, and we know what we need to do. We have a strong squad that will be ready to pounce an a Twinstars that is playing back to back games.“
This game was supposed to be played on May 16 but it was rescheduled to now. So here we are.
Tonight is a chance to throw off the bogeyman team and for fair play to win. It’s a big match.
The injury list remains long, though the coming weeks should see players getting back to full strength.
Isaac Friendt should resume training next week. He will be joined by Tommy Katsiyianns, who is back in town after finishing his school year at Northwestern.
Ben Wexler and Branden McGarrity remain injured as do Abdallah Bah and Ebesa Hamid. Lionel Vang has a small knock, though he did play for 20 minutes for the U23’s last night, and will not be in the squad for tonight’s game.
Nick Hutton is also unavailable. His day job requires him to be out of town this week. They are unimpressed by the business value to having an employee score a golazo in consecutive games.
James Neher has been cleared as fit to play, though he may be in the team in a back-up role as he continues to work to get back to 100%.
TwinStars scouting report
Forward Chase Wright has been in scintillating form this season. He is the leading scorer in the NPSL North, and he bagged a goal last night against Sioux Falls Thunder.
Expect TwinStars to roll-out their typical 3-5-2. Wright likes to lurk off of the last defender and feeds off of balls over the top, his pace and finishing make him lethal in that role. Minneapolis City will have to be wary.
Karim Darbaki plays a free role in the middle, drifting around to where he can do the most damage. He’s a Rolls-Royce of a player, but not always interested in defense. If the Crows can get him playing in his half instead of their half, that could be the difference maker.
One thing to note is that TwinStars did host Sioux Falls Thunder last night. This is overall a very young team—and they have Sean Teske back from school, though his availability was totally not the reason that they unilaterally cancelled the game in May—but back-to-back games is tough. How they manage their energy is a key for tonight.
The Dragons have been scoring goals for fun and will be a formidable opponent, but Med City’s possession-based, wide attack with pace pinned them back and rolled them 3-1. If City can find a way to take the initiative, they can be successful. If not, it is going to be a long, hot night.
Owning the initiative
Head coach Adam Pribyl was measured in his response: “We have been in good form thus far this season, but in my eyes and the boys on the squad, we have a lot still left to prove. We have a task in front of us tonight.”
The long injury list is a challenge, but Pribyl should have players available who can bring a different approach than the more cautious one that City took against TwinStars last season.
There are two keys according to the Crows coach.
First, it comes down to grit. Show the resilience and hunger that the team showed against Med City and anything is possible.
Second, it’s about taking the initiative. The 3-5-2 formation presents a unique challenge, but also presents unique opportunities that seem well suited to the way that City plays—particularly exploiting the space behind the wingbacks. Or at least pushing them back into a 5-3-2.
However scores first is going to have an advantage, but given the free scoring ways of both teams, it seems clear that a single goal won’t be enough. If City can start fast and keep at it, they have a chance.