Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Image courtesy of Minneapolis City Futures.

The opening weekend of the 2023 UPSL premier division Midwest-West season saw lower league soccer return to Minnesota in a flurry of action. New teams like Worthington Community and Superior City got results on the road, while last year’s two finalists met in an eventful draw.

It was a weekend of big goals and big saves, and while not every team will be happy with its result, it must be said that it’s great to have lower league soccer back in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Maplebrook 2-2 Worthington Community FC

The division kicked off on Saturday, April 29 with a showdown between Maplebrook and newcomers Worthington Community at Maple Grove High School. The match proved an eventful opener, ending in a 2-2 draw.

The action started with an early goal in the first half from Osseo’s AJ Miller. Miller found his goal after following up on a misplaced long distance pass from the Maplebrook midfield. The pass was intercepted and sent back to Worthington’s keeper, but Miller surprised the visitors, closing in on the ball and winning it in a duel before tapping it into the open net.

Maplebrook scored early in the second half to extend their lead and looked confident playing a reserved but deliberate style, defending much of the time and making the most of their chance. Worthington Community, however, had a statement to make. That statement came in the form of two goals in the final ten minutes from substitute Prince Lebbe Jr., one a ranged strike from the edge of the box and one a clever run from the left wing into the box to receive a pass and quickly convert a shot.

The result provides promise for both teams. Maplebrook will now they can get good minutes out of their players, including some young talents. Worthington will know, both because of the late comeback and the general quality of their performance and play, that they can indeed compete in the UPSL and get points.

FC Minneapolis – St. Paul Blackhawks (Postponed)

This game, scheduled for April 29, was later postponed to May 3. The result of the matchup will be noted in the recap for next weekend’s action.

Granite City – St. Croix (Postponed)

This game, at one point scheduled for April 30, was later moved to May 3. It will be covered in the next recap.

Vlora FC 1-1 Minneapolis City

Vlora and Minneapolis City on Sunday looking to finally beat one another from open play after sharing unbeaten runs last season. That decisive moment didn’t come, however, as the drew 1-1.

With the wind on their side, Vlora looked intent on an early goal in the first half, but it was Minneapolis City who opened the scoring after surviving some early chances. Nick Karam scored that goal after a wonderful assisting run on the counter from Tomas Menna, who asserted himself down the left wing and sent a crisp ball into the open far side of the box for Karam.

Vlora answered back late in the second half, after both sides had made several changes, with a solo goal from Assem Elsayad, who ran down that same left wing before cutting into the box and managing to sneak a shot past the diving goalkeeper. The match became more and more physical through the second half, with the referees seeming happy to allow some tension into the game.

Neither side could find a winner, though a diving Mitch Wolff save was required to keep that true, resulting in a draw that neither side will have wanted but both can use. Both teams looked ready to compete and showed their depth by keeping some big pieces on the bench until the second half, whether that be Elsayad and Kapaw Htoo for Vlora, or Futures top goalscorer Camel Htoo for Minneapolis City.

If one of these teams had won, they would have become favorites to win the whole thing for some, but Sunday’s draw leaves the UPSL Midwest-West feeling entertainingly undefined for 2023.

Twin City 0-1 Superior City

Superior City managed to find their first win of the season, and in the UPSL, on Sunday after a tight contest with Twin City. The win was earned by a first half goal from Mally Lumsden, who beat the keeper to a loose pass, leaping upward to kick the ball in from the edge of the box.

The goal came after Twin City had held sustained possession of the ball, besieging Superior for some time. After the goal, the game returned to that norm. Twin City continued to look dangerous in the second half after surviving some early momentum from the visitors, but they couldn’t find a goal.

Superior City did not play a perfect game. Passes were misguided at times and the team struggled to make the most of their possession on many occasions. When it mattered most, however, Superior got the job done. Goalkeeper Walker Marquardt, alongside a sturdy backline, was a massive presence in goal for the visitors, at one point making a diving save late to prevent what would have been a scene stealing equalizer from the edge of the box.

For Superior, it’s a successful road trip that buys time to figure out a pathway to more cohesive play. Some teams have to wait a lot longer than game one for their first win. As for the hosts, Twin City was somewhat unlucky to not score, it must be said, and had a possible penalty shout denied late in the game. The hosts played well at times and looked dangerous, an encouraging sign for their second season in the UPSL.

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