Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

Kostya Domaratskyy winds up to take his penalty for Duluth FC. Photo courtesy of Harrison Law and Duluth FC.

Saturday, May 13, saw the NPSL North roar back into action with three games across the state. Amongst the matches, we got some initial data and results to consider as the title race takes shape.

TwinStars 0-3 Duluth FC

The obvious plot point of this game was how Duluth FC would look. The club were painfully close to winning the NPSL North last year and showed clear intent in the offseason to make up for that, bringing in some attention-grabbing names. The answer to if Duluth are back at it is very much yes.

The BlueGreens and TwinStars both started this game slow, a bit of “first game” energy could be seen in misplayed passes, poor shots, and other general miscues. Duluth, however, were the only team that ever really escaped that mode. It all started as Tyler Limmer, the new arrival from the Sioux Falls Thunder, rose high to head down a ball in the six yard box for Rory Doyle to slot home to make it 1-0.

In the second half, Limmer added a volley goal of his own off of an arching long ball from Cian Gantlet to complete a perfect debut, while Kostya Domaratskyy drew and scored a penalty to secure that eventual 3-0 scoreline. The defensive block of goalkeeper James Price, Myles Edmondson, Jake Starling, Santiago Erazo, and Stefan Roeb looked good against the TwinStars, whose limited threats on goal came mostly within the first hour and especially the first half.

Up front, as is probably clear by this point, Duluth’s front three for the night of Kostya Domaratskyy, Cian Gantley, and Tyler Limmer look like an absolute handful to deal with, and it’s not even clear that’s the club’s full strength front three.

The TwinStars shouldn’t be too dismayed by this result. The team had its moments and certainly has talent on its roster. The team had certain players unavailable for the first match day and there’s no reason to think they can’t still get points against the rest of the conference.

You can rewatch this game here:

Dakota Fusion 1-1 Med City

Reigning NPSL North champions Med City had a more difficult appointment on the road to open the season, traveling to the Dakota Fusion, who were very much the upsetters of 2022 with results against many of the conference’s top sides. The Fusion did it again on Saturday, taking a first half lead and eventually drawing Med City 1-1.

That first half goal came from a wonderful run down the right wing by Daniel Eli, whose solo goal had the hosts up 1-0 at halftime. Med City’s 70th minute equalizer was to some degree similar, with Lucas Hart completing another wonderful solo goal, this time from the center-left of the 18 yard box.

The result is without a doubt not what Med City would have wanted to start their year, but there’s no need for panic mode here. The Fusion did this to many teams last year and in some of those games they won. The Mayhem get a point on the road and can move on to the next challenge. They have the talent to make it work.

For the Fusion, though, this result is somewhat vindicating. Some eyebrows were raised when the Fusion completely redid their mass recruitment from last season, bringing another completely new group of players with little to no experience in the conference. That said, Sam Winning seems to be able to get these players to work together and it resulted in a good week one. Perhaps it’s time to start trusting the Fusion’s process a bit more.

You can rewatch this goal here:

Joy Athletic 3-1 La Crosse Aris

When the schedule placed this matchup in week one, it caught a few glances. It provided an immediate rematch for a showdown that proved blockbuster last season, twice. Aris made club history with their two wins against Joy in 2022, while the goats lost out on a huge block of points. Despite that narrative, Saturday’s game was just about all jumping for Joy.

Mika Folstad opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, getting on the end of a well-worked cross into the box. Folstad’s run to the far post would be Joy’s only goal from open play, as Zinedine Kroeten then scored two penalties, one in the first half’s extra time and one in the 51st minute.

La Crosse Aris did find a late response with a 66th minute goal off of a corner kick to make it 3-1. It’s not much, but it’s a good silver-lining to take home for the team, who will have to focus on getting some tighter performances in at home when it comes to points, as they have over the last few years.

You can rewatch this game here:

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