Duluth 3-2 Sioux Falls Thunder
The BlueGreens stayed home for the final week of regular season play, knowing that all they could do after last week’s 1-1 draw with Med City was beat Sioux Falls and hope for the best. The hosts were already locked in for a playoff appearance. With the option of an improved form of last year’s second place finish as their back up option, it was far from the worst of places to be for Duluth. That said, the 2017 champions were certainly hoping for the tides of the football gods to show them some favor.
Duluth would eventually earn the win they needed to keep the dream alive, but it did not come easy. 0-0 at half time, this match would prove a wild back and forth siege. It would be a Blake Perry chip that opened the scoring in the 57th minute, followed up just seven minutes later when Wynand Wessels converted a penalty.
Rory Carlson would extend Duluth’s lead to 3-0 in the 76th minute, a goal that would prove vital as Sioux Falls found two goals in the 79th and 86th minutes from James Bolger and Ethan Glissendorf to make it 3-2. While not the prettiest ending, it was yet another win for Duluth FC, who end the year with just one draw at home, winning the other six matches played at Public Schools Stadium.
Dakota Fusion 4-1 Minnesota TwinStars
With some confusion around their previous match against La Crosse Aris still up in the air, the Fusion returned home for one more showdown, this time with the TwinStars. It was a chance to continue their truly impressive first year under Head Coach Samuel Winning.
It would prove a big night for the Dakota Fusion, who took an early lead that would extend to a 3-1 scoreline at half time with goals from Shoki Yoshida, Takeroh Murakawa, and Nozomu Kamei for the hosts in a span of about 13 minutes and Pe Carlos Gbamy would score for the TwinStars. With a win being all the Fusion needed to top Minneapolis City in the race for third, things were looking plenty positive in Moorhead.
Shoki Yoshida would score again in the 69th minute to extend the lead in the second half, ensuring a 4-1 win for the Dakota Fusion. This means the club will finish third, their best finish in conference history, aside from that second place finish in 2017.
La Crosse Aris 2-4 Minneapolis City
This season has proven to be one of La Crosse Aris’ best ever. At the same time, it’s been a frustrating year full of forfeited matches and issues with both hosting and traveling to matches. It’s been a tough year for Minneapolis City as well, albeit of a different sort. The club didn’t live up to its usual conference-winning ways and won’t be able to improve on its ever evolving playoff form this season. This match was a chance for both sides to end complicated years on the best note possible.
The Crows would prove expected winners on the night, with first half goals from returning veteran Tyler Oliver and Baraka Tarleton giving the visitors a confident 2-0 lead at half time. Diego Arnel would score early in the second half to get Aris back in the game, but Arthur Parens would make it 3-1 in City’s favor soon after.
Abdul Samet Ankaoglu would get another goal for Aris, making it 3-2, but fellow Oliver Justin Oliver would convert a penalty to give Minneapolis City the 4-2 win over the hosts, ensuring a positive end to a difficult season for the reigning NPSL North champions.
Joy Athletic – Med City
After thirteen games of grinding, with ten wins, one loss, and two draws, this was it. This was the game Med City needed to win. Playing a day later than everyone else, Med City already knew that Duluth had beat Sioux Falls 3-2, leaving the Mayhem with no choice other than to win this game.
While Joy would prove far from an easy match up for Med City, the Mayhem would secure their title winning victory in style. Andy Wilkinson would open the scoring just one minute in with a sort of half bicycle kick from close range off of a corner kick to make it 1-0. That lead would last a high energy first half of back and forth to be the difference maker at half time.
Med City wouldn’t find another goal until the 60th minute, with Narcis Bou curling in a wonderful shot from outside of the box to make it 2-0. The goal came after more back and forth but was well worth the wait. Frustration would build for Joy, who had played relatively well all night with their trademark style of fluid passing and youth, and the hosts would earn a red card in the 73rd minute.
Med City would leave it at 2-0, securing their eleventh win of the season and their first ever NPSL North title, a truly historic night for the club and founding member of the conference. Med City have for years been part of the so-called big three of the NPSL North, but have often been unlucky when it comes to silverware. This year, however, head coach Neil Cassidy and the Mayhem have said farewell to luck and proven that a gritty, hard fought season can and will bring the city of Rochester an NPSL title.
Congratulations on behalf of myself and Sota Soccer to Med City FC, the third ever club to win this conference and a reminder that while the NPSL North will likely forever be anchored in the Twin Cities, it is a conference for all of Minnesota, where clubs based in Rochester, Duluth, and Moorhead can finish top three. Again, congratulations Med City, and thank you for a truly fantastic season.
The Muskegon Risers will take the top seed with 2.6 PPG. Med City will take the second seed, with both sides receiving a bye in the first round of playoffs. That means that Cleveland SC will finish third as the conference champion with the lowest PPG.
Duluth FC will take the fourth seed, which means they should be facing FC Columbus in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, sixth seed Pittsburgh Hotspurs will face the third seed Cleveland SC.
And so we reach the end of the 2022 NPSL North season, the conference’s fifth-ever season. Med City are your 2022 North conference champions. Duluth and Med City will move on to the playoffs after a wild year of blow out wins, shock results, and surprising losses. In the interest of some self-deprecating content, here’s how I predicted the season would go in a earlier article:
1. Duluth FC
2. Med City
3. Joy Athletic
4. Minneapolis City
5. Dakota Fusion
6. Minnesota TwinStars
7. Sioux Falls Thunder
8. La Crosse Aris
And here’s the final table:
1. Med City
3. Dakota Fusion
4. Minneapolis City
5. Sioux Falls Thunder
6. Minnesota TwinStars
7. Joy Athletic
8. La Crosse Aris
My form was mixed, needless to say. I got some clubs right, some close, and some… well some I got what one ancient Roman proverb might describe as “shockingly wrong”. I got three teams exactly right, even got the correct pairing for the top two, but I got one team off by four places. But you see, that’s the beauty of this conference, it just doesn’t let your expectations command it.
I’ve been working in and around the NPSL North for four seasons, and one not-season in 2020, and I’ve made it clear on many an occasion that I just love it. At some level, the NPSL North is soccer to me, it is the core of the game in my mind. There’s no other league I’ve been to as many matches and grounds for.
I hope you had a good time too, either as a fan of a club or a neutral, and that our content helped you enjoy the 2022 season. Now we have playoffs and a long offseason ahead. There’ll be plenty of articles to be written before 2022 is done, but if this is where you’re reading ends, I look forward to meeting back up with all of you next spring for the 2023 season.