Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

Superior City (blue) face off with Maplebrook (red). Image courtesy of Cole Gewerth.

Last weekend saw some interesting shifts take place in the power structure of the UPSL Midwest-West. Some teams shifting dramatically from their initial week one impressions, while others doubled down on their impressive starts.

FC Minneapolis 1-3 St. Paul Blackhawks

After much anticipation, we finally got a look at the St. Paul Blackhawks and it was an impressive one. They faced FC Minneapolis, a club that few expected to top this division but most expect to continue its recent history of competitive results and performances.

While it would be harsh to say the City Lions weren’t competitive — they certainly gave St. Paul a game — the Blackhawks put together a dominant win with goals from Truett McConnell University duo Will Fraser-Gray and Oscar Brennan, both assisted by Zade Alafranji, to combine with a FCM own goal.

Granite City 1-5 St. Croix

There were questions about what St. Croix would look like this season, a new club to the league, attempting a multi-league format others have struggled to thrive with. The boys in Stillwater put many of those questions to bed this week, starting with a big win that saw them lead 3-0 at halftime.

Kevin Andrews and Liam Moreira especially stood out, with Moreira adding a goal and an assist off the bench. The club has noted to Sota Soccer that Moreira is from St. Croix’s 2005 ECNL team, a reflection of the young talent the team has access to.

St. Paul Blackhawks 0-2 Austin Villa

This result might be the eye raiser of the week. The Blackhawks opened their season strong but Austin Villa had other ideas on Saturday as the beat the hosts 2-0.

The goals came from Gio Castillo in the first half and Julio Hernández in the second.

The Blackhawks will surely be competitive this year, but the result shows teams will be able to get points off of them in the right situations. It also reflects a major shift for Austin Villa, a club that was excellent at home and poor on the road last season. If Austin Villa is getting road wins, that’s a dangerous shift for every other clubs.

Superior City 2-1 Maplebrook 58ers

Superior City proved a point on Saturday as they beat Maplebrook to go two for two, becoming one of the first teams to do so this season despite some low expectations from outside parties.

Maplebrook took an early lead, but goals from Jordan Finneran and Mally Lumsden gave the hosts the lead and the win. Superior City need their home to be a fortress and their more experienced players to be leaders and this weekend they pulled off a bit of both.

St. Croix 5-0 Worthington Community

Ten goals in two games, six points, one goal conceded. It’s an impressive line of stats and it’s St. Croix’s to call their own. Again, this is a team that many were curious about and so far they look absolutely ready to compete for silverware.

Kevin Andrews looks set to be a big name this season with multiple goals and an assist to his name in just one week of games. But it’s also worth noting this St. Croix defense seems quite capable, almost getting two consecutive clean sheets last week.

Worthington’s defense will feel ill-done by the two penalties, and perhaps rightly so, but it’s back to the drawing board for los Toros.

Vlora FC 3-0 FC Minneapolis

Any hangover from Vlora’s much anticipated game against Minneapolis City was not visible as they dominated FC Minneapolis the following weekend.

Pablo Campos’ first start of the season gave the club some extra quality in the attack as Chamoe Loo, Gustavo Aguilar, Xhujan Cani all scored against the City Lions. Comb through the game’s stream and you’ll see a Vlora team that look synergetic and fun to watch. If they can carry that energy forward the only thing they won’t be is fun to play.

While Vlora are not top of the table due to their draw against the Crows, this confident win makes their title challenge seem nothing short of extremely real.

Minneapolis City 4-1 Granite City

Minneapolis City Futures got a statement win of their own on Sunday as they overcame a 1-1 halftime scoreline with Granite City to earn a big four goal win.

Much like Vlora’s game, this felt like a chance for City to show the league what they can do outside of the bubble of playing title rivals. If this result is anything to work with, it shows City will be an awful place to play for several teams this year, something the Crows have every right to be happy about.

Tomas Menna stood out with a goal and assist against Granite City, with additional goals from the much-discussed Camel Htoo, Michael Doshan, and Carter Hermanson.

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