Players celebrate a Duluth FC goal against the Sioux Falls Thunder. Photo courtesy of Holden Law and Duluth FC.
Week two of the NPSL North 2023 season saw Duluth FC, the Dakota Fusion, and Med City all earn big wins at home. For the Fusion and Med City, it was the first win of the season, while the BlueGreens are now 2-0-0. Joy Athletic had a bye this week.
Dakota Fusion 4-1 Minnesota TwinStars
The Dakota Fusion continued a good start to the season on Saturday, winning at home over the Minnesota TwinStars to make it four points in two games. The TwinStars, meanwhile, now have two losses to start the year.
The Fusion’s Daniel Helle opened the scoring, finding space to tap in a well-sent cross into the six yard box. A foul on the inside edge of the box just before halftime, however, gave Miguel Arellano a chance to even things out. Arellano converted the penalty to make it 1-1 at the break.
The deadlock set in until the 73rd minute when Yu Tsukanome scored his first goal of the season for the Dakota Fusion, rising high in the box to meet an arching cross and head in the ball. In the 81st minute, a clever one-two with Harrison Tibbetts led to Tsukanome scoring his second goal of the game and season.
To top it all off, Tsukanome got on the end of a long ball from goalkeeper Kodai Tsuzuki, went one-on-one with the TwinStars keeper, and slotted home a hat-trick completing goal in the 89th minute. It’s a statement win for the Fusion, who, after drawing Med City, look like proper competitors this season.
Duluth FC 3-1 Sioux Falls Thunder
Duluth FC navigated their way out of a difficult match on Saturday, defeating the Sioux Falls Thunder to extend their record this season to 2-0-0, the first team to do so in the North this year. It was the Thunder who started the day well, however, scoring the opener in the fourth minute via a header by Patrick Hansen following a free-kick.
After a back and forth 15 minutes that saw the Thunder do a good job of harassing Duluth and picking off passes in the midfield to create chances of their own, the BlueGreens found their answer as fullback Stefan Roeb rushed forward and beat the Thunder goalkeeper to a loose pass. Roeb chipped the keeper from outside of the box and found the far corner of the net.
1-1 at halftime, Duluth made immediate adjustments at the start of the second half. These included bringing on Dylan Zavatini for Roeb. The new defender joined the party with a goal of his own 20 minutes later, scoring a header off of a Kostyantyn Domaratskyy cross to make it 2-1. The two goals were Roeb and Zavatini’s first for the club.
Domaratskyy was far from done, however, scoring a third goal in the 74th minute to make it 3-1. The Ukrainian dribbled multiple defenders before slotting the ball home for his seventh career NPSL goal for Duluth FC, tying him with Mally Lumsden and Sam Thornton in the club’s historical standings. The win keeps Duluth top of the table and, while the club did concede its first goal of the season, looking about as strong as ever.
Med City 1-0 La Crosse Aris
The reigning conference champions hosted La Crosse Aris on Saturday in what proved to be a very interested contest. This game didn’t find a winning goal until the 85th minute, but there was plenty of action prior, with Iker González saving the day for Med City after La Crosse Aris earned a potentially vital penalty kick in the first half. As far as Sota Soccer is aware, it’s the first penalty save of the season in the NPSL North.
The game also saw some technical issues, which eventually paused the game after a transformer appeared to smoke up from flames near the pitch. The clock eventually ran to the 100 count.
Med City’s Scott Neil eventually scored the late winner, his first NPSL goal of the season and second overall, having scored the winner against Vlora FC in the Minnesota Super Cup. It’s an important first win of the season for Med City, who drew the Dakota Fusion 1-1 in week one.
However, the Mayhem will need more than a goal a game to keep up with the best of the best and the question of where goals will come from in the long term feels key to their season. That said, defensively the team’s kept things tight and that’s as important as anything else. Aris showed an ability to battle on Saturday that most don’t usually associate with the club, perhaps a warning for the season to come.