Minneapolis City Charge into Title Race, Vlora Stay Top in UPSL Midwest-West

Matches on June 1st

Dakota Young Stars 0-1 Minneapolis City

Minneapolis City’s bid to retain the Midwest-West conference title suffered its first serious blows last week when Vlora and FC Minneapolis both battled to draws with the young Crows, but the club’s campaign is far from over. They travel now to the Dakota Young Stars, the surprise leaders on the table this season. The Young Stars could cement themselves as favorites with a win here, but City could very well spoil the party, even with a draw.

It would prove a hugely important night for Minneapolis City, who took home a 1-0 win thanks to a lone goal from Loïc Mesanvi, assisted by Mu Thoo. The result hands the Young Stars their first loss of the season after an unbelievable start, a result good enough to keep City in the title race while hope remains with the hosts, who still claim one of the best records in the conference. 

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While City have plenty of work to do before they can climb to the top of the table, it’s an encouraging change of pace from their draws against Vlora and FC Minneapolis. The result also continues a hugely impressive run of form from Loïc Mesanvi, who is proving an impact player in literally every competition he plays in, and boy is he playing in a lot of competitions.

FC Minneapolis 0-1 Vlora

Vlora, the 2019 champs of this conference, have become clear favorites for a title bid this season, so far fending off major competitors like Minneapolis City while dominating much of the rest. They travel now to FC Minneapolis, an outside contender who themselves has picked up a large cache of points. This all-Twin Cities match up is a chance for the City Lions to spoil the party, but they have to best a so-far unbeatable side.

It would prove another good night for the unbeatable Vlora, who managed a narrow but worthwhile 1-0 win over FC Minneapolis thanks to yet another goal from Uhunoma Fredrick. With every other competitor for the title dropping points, Vlora are emerging as the clear favorites in this first stage of the season.

Vlora celebrate after their 1-0 win over FC Minneapolis. Courtesy of Vlora FC.

It’s not the end of the line for the City Lions, of course, who have plenty to play for in terms of the title and the playoffs. FC Minneapolis were on a wonderful run in the lead up to this, so while Vlora has made a statement, they’re far from the only club to continue talking about.

Turbo 3-1 Brooklyn Knights

Two Twin Cities clubs struggling to find consistency in the lower half of the table meet as Turbo hosts the Brooklyn Knights. A win for either could launch the earner several spots up the table. Turbo have played fewer games, but have managed to grab an extra point, leading the Knights four to three. Turbo has scored just 4 goals to the Knights’ 6, but have conceded just 7 to the Knights’ 17.

Turbo’s starting eleven against the Brooklyn Knights. Courtesy of Turbo FC.

Turbo would find the exact sort of result they needed as they beat the Knights 3-1, with two goals from Sam Waylee Jr. and one from Benjamin Yakah. It’s a vital win to Turbo’s hopes to climb the table, seeing the club manage to best its fellow Twin Cities clubs with midtable hopes.

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Rochester FC 2-1 Granite City

Expected to compete this season, 2022 hasn’t started especially well for Rochester FC with one loss, one draw, and four losses from their first six matches. But early season issues don’t always write the story of the season as the club host another club from outside of the Twin Cities, St. Cloud’s Granite City. While Granite City have also not started perfectly, their six points has them all the way up in sixth place. On their day, the team seem capable, though they’ve had some tough results defensively.

Granite City staring eleven against Rochester. Courtesy of Amer Nawazish Mian.

It would prove to be a night to remember for the Rochester faithful, as the home side battled to a 2-1 win, one of their cleanest performances of the season. The match saw Rochester lead 2-0 near the hour mark thanks to Midhat Mujic and Daniel Pilot before Granite City got their own in the 78th minute.

While Rochester can move forward with their heads high, it’s a tough result for Granite City, who yet again drop all three points to a struggling side, as they did against the Brooklyn Knights. 

Matches on June 4th

Minneapolis City 2-0 Turbo

City returned home following a big road win, looking for another victory, one that could launch them right back into the title race. With the season entering its final leg, the Crows have everything to play for. It should be noted, though, that this Turbo side has already surpassed the points tally of last season and has shown its more than capable of a competitive showing.

It would prove an expected night for Minneapolis City’s Futures-fueled side, who found a pair of second half goals after a 0-0 first half to get yet another win against one of their Twin Cities neighbors. Leo Runestad would strike first in the 52nd minute, before Nick Karam doubled the trouble in the 68th. 

The cleansheet win over Turbo helps all the more as Minneapolis City look to mount a late comeback into the UPSL Midwest-West title and playoff race.

Maplebrook 3-2 Ebusua 

While a title or playoff appearances seems well off the mark for either side in this match up, it’s fair to say there’s plenty of pride for Maplebrook and Ebusua to play for. The hosts have just one win, but with just two losses it’s fair to say they’ve had a share of highs and lows. A win here and they get close to double digit points despite their generally poor form. Ebusua, meanwhile, are still without a win, something they’d very much like to change before their first ever UPSL season comes to an end.

Ebusua FC’s starting eleven against the Maplebrook 68ers. Courtesy of Ebusua.

It would prove to be one of Ebusua’s closest matches of the season, grabbing two goals from Saikou and Johnson along the way, but Maplebrook would prevail in a 3-2 win that sees the hosts continue to discover a bit of form as they collect a share of points.

It’s another bite from reality that sees Ebusua’s winless streak continue in the UPSL. A tough season was expected for the club, though matches like this will likely be remembered as missed opportunities to end the season on a good note.

Brooklyn Knights 1-1 Austin Villa

Still within reach of something eventful this season, Austin Villa get back on the road after having their last match, against Maplebrook, postponed. The club’s hopes of bringing high level soccer to the smaller corners of Minnesota has gone well so far, but it’ll take a little more magic if they hope to beat the likes of City and the Young Stars to the playoffs. For the Brooklyn Knights, a return home provides another chance to improve on a disappointing season.

The match would eventually end in a 1-1, Austin Villa’s first draw of the season after a summer of go big or go home scorelines for the new UPSL members. The single point isn’t quite enough to keep Austin Villa’s top of the table hopes alive, the club continues to impress. It’ll be quite interesting to see what the southern Minnesota club do with their remaining few games of the 2022 regular season.

For the Knights, it’s another point in the books in a season to forget, with the club having plenty to think about this offseason after going from being of 2021’s top competitors to one of 2022’s weakest performers. Any upper table aspirations are settled at this point, but the Brooklyn Knights should hope for more performances like this one from the few matches they have left.

Matches on June 5th

Granite City 2-4 FC Minneapolis

Granite City can improve on their season and make a forgettable year less so with a good performance here, but it’s FC Minneapolis who have the most to gain here, with a win helping them continue to battle their way back into the race for the top spots in the conference. The City Lions have been in good form, but they’ll need to make that perfect form.

As it would turn out, FC Minneapolis were ready to perform on the night, grabbing a massive – lead despite going down a man. Matheus Rodrigues would open the scoring for the City Lions, before a Gafar Ayodele red card in the 36th minute gave Granite City a penalty kick and left it 1-1. Goals from – Adrien, Higor França, and another from Matheus Rodrigues would give FC Minneapolis a dominant 4-1 lead at the hour mark.

Matthis Couinet and his fellow FC Minneapolis players look on during the side’s half time team talk against Granite City. Courtesy of FC Minneapolis.

Granite City would grab a late goal via a corner kick, but FC Minneapolis would still secure a 4-2 win, doing what they can to make up for that loss against Vlora and stay in the mix at the top of the UPSL Midwest-West.

Vlora 1-1 Dakota Young Stars

The Young Stars loss to Minneapolis City last week means that Vlora are very much in the driver’s seat for the title, a position they immediately have to defend as South Dakotans visit them on the weekend. The visitors have plenty to play, even still in the running for the title themselves, but it’s Vlora that should be expected to turn up in Burnsville with a big win.

The Young Stars would take a shock lead 38 minutes into the match, slotting in a short distance shot after a clever series of runs and passes moved the ball up the pitch quickly. 1-0 at half time, the Young Stars are one of the few sides this season to put Vlora in such a position.

Robert Cooper would have something to say in the second half, however, drawing level for Vlora. It would end 1-1, a result that in most situations would benefit the Young Stars on the road, but with Vlora already ahead on points with so few matches left, surviving this match may well have been all they needed to do.

The real issue for both sides now is that Minneapolis City have climbed back up to tie the Young Stars on points, just three behind Vlora. City have a game in hand, but do have to travel to the impressive Austin Villa and a somewhat improved Maplebrook before they can claim any titles. The last few matches are on their way and the stakes have never been higher.

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