A special shout out to Sota Soccer’s own Matthew Johnson, who attended this match while I could not and made our coverage better, and frankly possible at all.
How We Got Here:
Vlora 3-0 Dakota Young Stars
Vlora earned their spot in the conference final, following their undefeated run to first place in the regular season, with a spotless result against the Dakota Young Stars midweek. The Young Stars would receive two red cards across the match, one in the final minutes, as Vlora found goals from the likes of Leo Anthony, Suad Suljic and Minnesota United veteran Pablo Campos. It was far from a surprise to see the side win, but the calm confidence they did so with was a major endorsement ahead of the final.
FC Minneapolis 1-1 Minneapolis City (3-4 on penalties)
FC Minneapolis would fight hard to earn a spot in the final, but it would be Minneapolis City’s young Futures roster that earned the appearance. The two sides would be locked at 1-1 after regulation time, then at 2-2 after AET. Ramzi Ouro Akondo would get both open play goals for City, and remains a player to watch going into the final. City would win with penalty kicks from Ouro Akondo, Watkinson, Beaupre, and Hermanson. Goalkeeper Evan Siefken also made a save.
Vlora 0(3) – 0(5) Minneapolis City
Vlora and Minneapolis City faced off in a match up of the 2019 and 2021 conference champions, who had battled to a draw earlier in the season. A Minneapolis City-controlled first half would reach the whistle at 0-0, though not without attempts at changing that from the likes of Mu Thoo.
Vlora would come out stronger in the second half, carrying far more possession, controlling the first 20 minutes before fatigue saw the two sides even out into a back and forth siege. Despite their efforts, neither side could find a goal, with City’s young squad struggling to find the scoring form they showed in the regular season while Vlora’s more experienced group failed to translate that experience into a goal.
The match would then enter thirty minutes of added extra time. No goals would come, again, though City goalkeeper Evan Siefken would impress with a sliding save on Minnesota United veteran Pablo Campos, showing that the Crows’ youthful lineup could certainly go toe to toe with the best in Vlora’s squad.
Finally, the match would enter the penalty shootout to decide who would be champions of the Midwest-West. Minneapolis City goalkeeper Evan Siefken would again prove to be the hero, as City won 5-3.
The win is a massive one for the Minneapolis City organization, which has operated in three leagues this year. It’s also a serious endorsement of the Minneapolis City Futures program, which has yet again helped produce a high quality group in the UPSL.
While the Crows’ USL League Two and NPSL campaigns didn’t match expectations, the Futures have stepped up and given the club some silverware to build momentum for 2023.
This also means, of course, that Minneapolis City will move on in the playoffs as they did last year. Keep an eye on this website and their social media for further updates.