Matches on June 8th
Duluth FC 3-0 Joy Athletic
Duluth’s loss last weekend to Minneapolis City was a blow to their campaign but far from the end of the line. What may define the BlueGreen’s season most is their response, which would come as a Joy Athletic side they started the season by defeating 6-0 traveled up to Lake Superior. A win here would leave the hosts looking plenty positive as their biggest clashes, two matches against Med City, await in the second half of the season. For Joy, the game was a chance to clean up the mess of that opening match and continue to find points and climb up the table.
While it would prove yet another dominant win for Duluth FC, the BlueGreens arrived at that result in a less conventional way than usual. For one, the match would provide the first pairing of 2022 for centerbacks Jake Starling and Martin Grzywa, who started together in much of 2021. Others who have featured less thus far, like Keegan Chastey and Paul Bobai, also earned starts.
It would be all Duluth by the end of the night, but the first goal didn’t come until the 44th minute when Anoka-native Blake Perry had a shot blocked, only for it to fall to the feet of a charging Keegan Chastey. The Duluth-native slotted in the goal, marking his first DFC goal after playing for the club without one in 2021. Sam Thornton would slot home a penalty earned by Perry early in the second half before Chastey found his second goal, this time an impressive shot from a chance created by Chastey himself, in the 59th minute.
While Joy created chances, even forcing some one-on-one saves from Duluth’s second goalkeeper Michael Garrihy, the night ended with Duluth’s fourth cleansheet of the season, returning to their defensively resound ways. It’s a big response for the BlueGreens, back in the thick of it with another trio of points as they look to reclaim their spot at the top of the table after last weekend’s flock sized hiccup.
Minneapolis City 2-3 Minnesota TwinStars
The latest edition of the NPSL North’s original rivalries saw an inform TwinStars travel to the Crows in the hosts return to Edor Nelson Field, where they’ve been unable to play this season up until this point. Minneapolis City, on a good spell of their own, beat the TwinStars 2-0 at the start of the season, but both sides have shown their strengths and this match up, following wins from both teams the weekend prior, looked sure to be a fun one.
All the more narratives were at play this time, with the TwinStars in a rare position to potentially cement their spot above City on the table with a win today, with the hosts and visitors on seven and nine points respectively prior to kick off.
Needless to say, this reunion of the Technical Difficulties Derby, a match up we haven’t seen since 2019, certainly proved worth the wait. It would be the TwinStars, the historied NPSL side which has struggled to compete with its newer Twin Cities neighbors in recent years, that would get the party started as 2021 Mr. Soccer Minnesota Sidike Jabateh opened the scoring, sneaking a shot past the keeper from mere feet away. 25 minutes later, on the eve of half time, Tayeb Benjaafar would score the TwinStars’ second with a curled effort from the left edge of the box.
While the goals were one sided, the match certainly was not, with Minneapolis City constantly looking inches away from finding a goal of their own. They would, but they’d have to wait as Jabateh found yet another goal, this time going on a wonderful run and rocketing a shot past the keeper after both sides had seen a player sent off in the 55th minute.
10 vs. 10, the match would see yet another goal as City’s Murakami score following a free kick to make it 1-3. Lionel Vang would keep things interesting with a 90th minute goal, but it wouldn’t be quite enough and the TwinStars would win 3-2. It’s a huge win, which sees the TwinStars rise to twelve points, while City remain at seven.
Dakota Fusion 4-4 Sioux Falls Thunder
The latest edition of the Dakotas Derby couldn’t have come at a better time for the Dakota Fusion, or a worse one for the Sioux Falls Thunder. The match has always been a big part of both clubs, particularly in the fight for the mid-table spots in the NPSL North. The importance is far from gone. The Fusion came into the match off the back of two consecutive multi-goal wins against Minneapolis City and Joy Athletic, their first wins of the season and enough to launch them out of the bottom spot in the conference. Sioux Falls, however, finally saw their long run of draws run dry after they suffered losses to Joy and Med City in the last two rounds.
The latest edition of the Dakota Derby would prove, well, eventful. The Fusion would get off to a wonderful start, with Antonio La Gamba and Tre Bonaparte getting on the score sheet, Bonaparte twice, to give the Fusion a 3-0 lead by the 27th minute. Having won their last two matches, it seemed a perfect start.
Unfortunately for the Fusion, the Thunder had other plans, as Marcus Horwood and Tatsuki Kobayashi scored before half time to make it 3-2. Sioux Falls would score twice in the 73rd and 76th minutes of the second half through Robert Aarbo and Horwood again to take a late lead, with their first win of the season looking close at 4-3.
The Fusion would have the last laugh though, with a 91st minute own goal making it 4-4 and forcing the two high scoring sides to share the points in a draw that helps Sioux Falls distance themselves from Aris while keeping the Fusion on a mostly positive run. Both sides, however, will know they could’ve won on the night.
La Crosse Aris – Med City (Forfeited)
Having followed their surprise 3-0 win over Joy with a heavy 5-0 loss to the Minnesota TwinStars, La Crosse Aris remain a difficult side to read. Their latest match, hosting Med City, provided an interesting opportunity to follow up on their tight 2-1 loss to the side in Rochester in week one. Instead of seeing these storylines resolved, the match would be canceled due to pitch conditions.
The National Premier Soccer League website now lists the match as a forfeit and a 3-0 win for Med City.
Matches on June 11th
Med City 2-1 Joy Athletic
With their match against Aris unresolved, Med City returned home to face Joy Athletic not long after their fellow title challengers did so. For Joy, it’s another chance to translate their free flowing, creative football into a result against one of the North top sides. For Med City, it’s a another match the Mayhem need to win to keep hold of that top spot while Duluth wait with a game in hand.
Joy Athletic would certainly make Med City work for their points on the night, with the two sides tied 1-1 at half time after Joy took the lead with a wild 5th minute goal, an arching shot from outside of the box that found the top right corner. Toby Millward would equalize for Med City just before half time, running onto a loose ball in the box and slotting it home.
Andres Garcia would step up in the second half to give Med City the lead for the first time on the night. It would end there, 2-1, in what’s proving to be a typical Med City performance, playing quality soccer, getting a couple goals, but in the end winning in a gritty manner, often only by a goal or two.
It’s been enough to get them to the top of the table, which really means it’s truly enough, but it’ll be interesting to see how it pairs next weekend when the Mayhem travel to Minneapolis City.
Minnesota TwinStars 4-4 Dakota Fusion
A statement win over Minneapolis City midweek left the TwinStars in prime position to return home and play the Dakota Fusion, a side on a positive run of form but coming off of a disappointing draw at home. Both sides could use the points, with the Fusion needing some defining wins if they wish to challenge for third place or higher, while the TwinStars are beginning to form a bit of a points gap between themselves in third and the likes of City, Joy, and the Fusion.
It would prove another eventful night for both the TwinStars and the Fusion, though the hosts did not enjoy the same form they found against Minneapolis City. The TwinStars did lead 3-1 at half time, showing their dangerous frontline’s ability.
However, by the final whistle, the Fusion had found their feet through goals from Tre Bonaparte and Soshi Fujioka as the match ended 4-4, the Fusion’s second result of the kind in days, first as hosts and now as visitors. Four points from a few days is far from bad for the TwinStars, but it does feel like two points loss for the hosts.
Sioux Falls Thunder 2-3 Duluth FC
Sioux Falls follow an eventful meeting with the Dakota Fusion by returning home to host Duluth FC. It’s a tough challenge, with a Thunder side that is still struggling to defend having to host the league’s most productive attack, but it’s a big chance to get an upset result like they have against Med City and Minneapolis City. For Duluth, with a win under their belt after last weekend’s loss, it’s all about more goals and more wins.
The BlueGreens would hit the ground running after their long trip southwest, but the Sioux Falls Thunder wouldn’t budge and it would be a calm 0-0 at half time, a rarity for both clubs this season. The second half would be a different story, with Peter Oyetunji scoring for Duluth almost immediately after kick off to make it 1-0. Sioux Falls would equalize through James Bolger before Kostya Domaratskyy gave Duluth back their lead, again almost immediately.
Duluth would have to fight hard for their win, however, as Sioux Falls found yet another equalizer in the 83rd minute via Ethan Glissendorf, sneaking the ball past the keeper off of a set piece. But wait, there was somehow more in this match, as Paul Bobai scored his second ever BlueGreens goal to make 3-2 to Duluth. Sioux Falls would argue Bobai was offside, but the referees would state otherwise.
It would end there, with Duluth taking all three points home on a long voyage, doing their best to keep as close as possible to the unbeaten Med City at the top of the table. It’s just the second game this season in which Duluth has conceded any goals.
Minneapolis City 5-1 La Crosse Aris
Minneapolis City had the chance to find their feet against La Crosse Aris after the midweek loss, and so they did. With Aris missing several matches this season, it’s been difficult at times to know what to expect from them when they are playing. On the night, the visitors from Wisconsin earned themselves credit with bright moments on the attack and some good saves, but it was very much the Crows night to have some fun.
Guided by the likes of Tyler David and veteran Abdallah Bah, Minneapolis City would have to survive an early burst of forward action from Aris before finding a goal. After those tough first five minutes, however, it would be Cole Schwartz who grabbed the opener in the 8th minute, a well hit diagonal shot into the far corner. City’s Cavanaugh would find a second just five minutes later to hand the hosts a secure lead. It would feel slightly less secure, however, when Aris scored their only goal of the night two minutes later, as forward Smith bundled in a poorly handled ball after a mix up between the goalkeeper and back line.
No worries, however, as goals from Nickowski, Time, and Habte would hand Minneapolis City a whopping 5-1 lead at half time with 15 shots taken by the Crows. There would be no further goals in the second half, which again saw Aris find bursts of good play but struggle to make them count, while City came inches away from another goal on several occasions.