Minnesota Aurora Ready for Playoff Semifinals After a *Swift* Comeback vs. Indy

Goalkeeper Sarah Fuller makes a leaping save

Friday, July 15, 2022

“We Have Never Ever” . . . Ever Ever Lost a Game

On Wednesday, 6,200 fans came to watch Minnesota Aurora FC host Indy Eleven in the USL W League quarterfinals. This broke the previous attendance record of 6,016 on June 23. While Indy Eleven proved to be the toughest Aurora opponent to date, Aurora proved to be the better team winning 2-1.

“I Knew You Were Trouble” – Starting Lineups

“From what I noticed with [MN Aurora], they’re a very, very, very well organized team. They’ve got a good ability to play soccer. And with those two combined, they’re a dangerous team. . . .”

Indy Eleven head coach Paul Dolinsky after their final regular season win

Aurora made two key changes to their Starting 4-2-3-1. With Sangmin Cha out with what Coach Nicole Lukic stated as “an injury in the Green Bay weekend,” MN Aurora started with Catherine Rapp at the 10. When I got to TCO Stadium early to provide some pregame content, I noticed Cha warming up on the sidelines on her own.

The other change was Mayu Inokawa, usually a CB, making her first start but at defensive midfield. With the absences of Morgan Stone and Shelby Hopeau, Inokawa would prove important to Aurora’s defense and offense. Coach Lukic said postgame, “We had an injury so we needed somebody to fill that spot. [Inokawa is] a natural center back. So, we needed a little bit more of a defensive player to hold that space in there.”

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Coach Paul Dolinsky started Indy in a 4-3-3. GK Mackenzie Wood had 46 saves in the regular season. For comparison Aurora’s Sarah Fuller had 28. In front of Wood was the captain and omnipresent center back Robyn McCarthy. Both of Indy Eleven’s top scorers started as usual: Madison Williams at CF and Katherine Soderstrom at RW.

Unified Soccer Clubs from Eagan & Watertown-Mayer High Schools

“Begin Again” – 1st Half

Indy Eleven found more attacking chances in the first half. They played quick passes from the middle to the flanks and got chances in the attacking third.

“. . . Ready for It?” – Soderstrom’s Penalty Kick

In the 24′ Indy’s Maddy Williams passed to Katie Soderstrom who shot. Sarah Fuller made the two-mitt save, but the ball then ricocheted off Addy Symonds arm.

Having scored penalties for both Indy Eleven and at Butler University, Katie Soderstrom would take the PK. In the 25′ Sarah Fuller made her most important save in Aurora’s existence.

Sarah Fuller / Makes a save — highlights courtesy of Equal Time Soccer

“I’d seen her [Soderstrom] shoot a few times. I’d known that [Williams] went to my left. But then after watching [Soderstrom] shoot a few times, I was like, ‘okay she’s going to shoot to my left as well.’ And I just went, and [the ball] was there. So yeah, made the save, [it feels] just incredible!”

Sarah Fuller when asked about the PK

“Sparks Fly” – Ella Rogers Scores First

In the 34′ Maddy Williams crossed the ball over to Jenna Chatterton. CM Addy Symonds left Ella Rogers to help contain Chatterton. Chatterton passed to Rogers as no one was in Rogers’ neighborhood, and Rogers put the visitors in the lead 0-1.

For the first and only time since Friday, June 17 versus Chicago City SC, Minnesota Aurora found themselves losing. In Chicago, Langdok would score an equalizer before half time. This time, Aurora went into half time losing for the first time in their history.

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Indy Eleven defended well. The back line of Jenna Chatterton, Grace Bahr, Robyn McCarthy, and NIkia Smith was organized and tough to break down. McCarthy continually stepped in front of long and short passes headed for Maya Hansen or Cat Rapp in the middle. RFB Nikia Smith had the athleticism and intelligence to match Mariah Nguyen.

Two young fans hold up homemade signs – courtesy of the club

“Shake It Off” – 2nd half

After the break, MN Aurora substituted forward Morgan Turner for fullback Eli Rapp and Jill Bennett at right wing for Jelena Zbilijic. Indy Eleven put in midfielder Julia Leonard for Molly McLaughlin.

With these subs, Aurora switched to a 3-5-2. With more players up front, their press became stronger.

Indy GK Mackenzie Wood remarked, “They had a lot of numbers up. They just kept trying to shoot some shots and getting more numbers for it.”

“Fearless” – Morgan Turner

Aurora’s formation and player changes yielded results. In the 49′ Captain Langdok passed long up to Cat Rapp who passed to Turner, who bent a left-boot beauty. Turner equalized the score 1-1 and in turn boosted the energy of the crowd and players.

“Look What You Made Me Do” – Inokawa’s Penalty Kick

In the 65′ Maya Hansen was doubled teamed in the box by Grace Bahr and Addie Chester. Chester gave a two-handed shove and shoulder into Hansen. Referee blew the whistle. Roughly 40 minutes after Sarah Fuller saved Indy’s PK, Aurora earns a PK of their own.

Mayu Inokawa – courtesy of MN Aurora

Turner looked the one to take at first, but Mayu Inokawa said “Mine” and stepped up, then baby-stepped her approach. Indy GK Mackenzie Wood guessed correctly and dove to her right, but Inokawa’s placed it beyond the gloves of Wood.

“We made an order of PK takers in case we go to penalty shootout and hers has been the best. And I think the players just knew she was on the field, and they wanted her to have it.”

Aurora head coach Nicole Lukic on choosing Mayu Inokawa for the PK
Mayu Inokawa gets mobbed after her PK – courtesy of MN Aurora

“Mean” You can take me down with a single blow

There were three yellow cards in the game. Aurora wing Jill Bennett two-hand shoved fullback Jenna Chatterton. Chatterton later would shove down Turner to prevent a break away. In stoppage time Bennett would shoulder down Robyn McCarthy as she was attempting a throw-in. Bennett received her second yellow card and Aurora’s first “Red.” She will miss the semifinals this Sunday.

Mariah Nguyen attempts to head the ball past GK Mackenzie Wood

Indy goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood would go up to aid the attack in the dying minutes. She had to quickly retreat as Aurora would control the ball and go the other way.

“End Game” – GK Mackenzie Wood Interview

I asked Mackenzie Wood a few questions post game.

MJ: What did you see out there today?

MW: It was a great game, great environment. Anybody loves to play in this environment with all the fans and everything. I think our team gave it our all, but we’ve got to finish [stronger] in the second half next time.

MJ: You just recently played against Detroit City playing [at Michael A. Carroll Stadium] where the Indy men’s team usually plays. How does this crowd compare to that crowd in Indy?

MW: The Indy stadium’s a little bit bigger, so the fans were more spaced out. But there are definitely more fans here. Anytime that we can play with a lot of fans is a great experience. I’m thankful to have this opportunity.

MN Revontulet Supporters in Section 121 – courtesy of MN Aurora

“Everything Has Changed” (featuring the MN Revontulet)

MN Revontulet recreated the Aurora logo with their first tifo.

Revontulet holding their first tifo, displaying the Aurora logo – screen capped by Matthew Johnson from elevensports

With 6,200 in attendance, MN Aurora broke their previous record of 6,016 from June 23 versus the Chicago Dutch Lions. They also set a new TCO Stadium record for any event or sport, according to fellow writer Bridget McDowell.

Jefferson Bus Lines’ Stephen down on pitch – courtesy of MN Aurora

“You Belong With Me” – The Bus Driver Stephen Effect

Bus driver Stephen Berry became a fan favorite when Aurora Communications Coordinator Brenna Keeler started filming him warming up with Aurora players. While he has driven MN Aurora to all their away games, he doesn’t make all the home games. However, for the playoffs, he wanted to make sure to be at TCO Stadium. At halftime, he wanted to give the players, down 0-1, some encouragement.

“I was up in the stands, and I was telling my wife at halftime, ‘I need to go down on the bench.’ She said [sarcastically], ‘Oh yeah, right,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I need to go down there.’

Then Andrea [Yoch] came and got me and said, ‘You want to go down there?’ and I said yeah, ‘I need to be down there.’ And she said, ‘Well, come on! You want to go down in the 70th minute?’ ‘Welllll,’ I said, ‘I need to go there now.’ She said, ‘Let’s GO!’

So I came down there. And as soon as I came down to them, we got there, [and] everybody was high fiving me. And they gave me all the inspiration, and they were ready to go.”

Bus Driver Stephen

“Superman” Christian Ramirez

Once upon a time, a talented team called Indy Eleven came to Minnesota. Minnesota set an attendance record and won with a penalty and goal from the run of play. Sound familiar?

On July 16, 2016, Minnesota United hosted NASL Spring champions Indy Eleven in their third match of the Fall Season. Christian Ramirez scored a penalty and goal assisted by Stefano Pinho. Pinho currently plays for the Indy Eleven men’s team in the USL Championship. He has 7 goals in 13 games.

Come back I’ll be with you someday

Chris Lidholm was the stadium play-by-play announcer at the National Sports Center back in 2016. History came back around, and TCO Stadium heard his iconic voice back on the PA microphone this past Wednesday.

“Blank Space” And I’ll write . . . whose name?

USL W Semifinals are set for this Sunday.

Sunday at 3 PM, Aurora will host McLean Soccer out of McLean, Virginia. The Mid Atlantic champions won their quarterfinal 8-0 by walloping the Metropolitan champs Morris Elite SC (Union, NJ).

When I asked Nicole Lukic at the tail end of her press conference: “Any thoughts on McLean?” She replied simply, “See you Sunday.”

Bus driver Stephen is going to be there. You can grab tickets here.

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