Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

Duluth players celebrate a goal against Joy Athletic. Image courtesy of Holden Law and Duluth FC.

As if the NPSL North had not already given us plenty to think about, the two game week from Wednesday, May 24 to Saturday, May 27 proved to be a massive occasion. After these six games concluded, we were left with a very different conference table.

Joy Athletic 2-3 Med City

Joy Athletic put it all on the line on Wednesday as they narrowly lost to Med City. It was the Goats who scored first at St. Louis Park, with Noah Kantorowicz opening the game up in the 21st minute. A Scott Neil equalizer 17 minutes later made it 1-1 at halftime.

Med City came ready to get the job down out of halftime, as Gustavo Leal found the go-ahead goal in the 58th minute to give the Mayhem the lead. Zinedine Kroeten had other ideas and scored for Joy in the 72nd minute as the night’s game quickly became an instant classic.

It wasn’t over yet, though, and Tristan Jumeau gave Med City back the lead in the 81st minute to secure the win, a result that was big on the night and proved to be even bigger given the result awaiting Med City’s the following weekend.

La Crosse Aris 0-1 Duluth FC

Duluth FC kept the wins coming on Wednesday, but their trip to La Crosse proved to be far more difficult than most may have expected. It proved to be a late second half goal that made all the difference in this one.

The BlueGreens took on La Crosse with several changes made, including the debut of Alex Paredes in goal. Paredes had plenty to do, as Aris did well to create dangerous chances on the counterattack, though their overall final product ended up lacking clinical execution.

All the while, Aris goalkeeper Ernesto Ascenzo was everywhere to save Duluth’s shots and interrupt the visitors’ crosses. While Duluth eventually scored, Ascenzo left his mark on the match with a MOTM level performance. Duluth did eventually find the answer as Kostya Domaratskyy cut in from the wing and worked his magic to score his third goal of the season in the 78th minute.

This was the second time in two games that La Crosse Aris had forced a competitive side into a late 1-0 win, the previous being Med City in a 1-0 result in Rochester.

Sioux Falls Thunder 2-4 Minnesota TwinStars

While they aren’t top of the table, this week was very much about the Minnesota TwinStars. The team started the season with a lackluster loss to Duluth FC, which, paired with big results for the likes of Joy Athletic that same day, seemed to suggest a tough road ahead. People who may have started to doubt the club’s ability to make an impact this season, including me, were wrong.

The reboot started on Wednesday with a massive road win against the Thunder, which saw Sidike Jabateh score two in the first half, plus one more from Sadra Golzarian, to put the TwinStars up 3-0 at halftime.

Marcus Horwood scored a penalty kick early in the second half to get Sioux Falls on the board, but Jabateh completed his hat trick just eight minutes later to keep the momentum on the TwinStars’ side. Horwood scored from open play in the 90th minute, but the game was long gone by then.

The TwinStars had their three points and, perhaps more importantly, had Jabateh, a former Park Center forward who was 2021 Minnesota Mr. Soccer and now plays college ball with the Dayton Flyers, looking primed up front.

Duluth FC 6-0 Joy Athletic

Duluth may have struggled to find goals against La Crosse Aris, but that problem was clearly addressed by the time the BlueGreens arrived at home for their game against Joy Athletic. The hosts did have to wait, but Kostya Domaratskyy’s 25th minute goal to make it 1-0 was one of his best yet, rocketing the ball into the roof of the net after a clever run down the left wing.

Tom Akinola scored two, including his first ever for the club, to extend the lead and defender Stefan Roeb continued an impressive start to his BlueGreens career to make it 4-0 at halftime. Joy Athletic simply didn’t seem to have an answer to Duluth’s play on the wings, and Duluth did well to make that entirely clear to the viewers.

The BlueGreens moved pieces around at halftime and beyond, bringing on experienced striker Tyler Limmer for Akinola. Limmer went on to score the final two goals of the game with some great one on one play, making his tally three for this season.

Minnesota TwinStars 2-0 Med City

The Minnesota TwinStars hosted Med City on Saturday in what can only be described as monumental moment in this season, with the hosts winning 2-0 after a complete performance against the reigning conference champions, which featured some dynamic play by wing-backs Anthony Mator, a MNUFC academy alum who made a MLS Next Pro appearance for the club in 2022, and Jaafar Abdulrahman.

The TwinStars found their go-ahead goal in the 15th minute after a well-played ball down the right wing gave Miguel Arellano an opportunity to charge in on goal and let loose with a shot from the edge of the six-yard box. The host’s number ten made no mistake and made it 1-0.

TwinStars goalkeeper Adam Tebbs, one of the stars of the night, helped guide the hosts to a 1-0 scoreline at halftime. The second half saw both teams square off for about 40 minutes before a decisive moment came. Iker González, Med City’s goalkeeper, who it should be noted had a great game overall and of course had a wonderful 2022, slipped up late and carried the ball out of the box.

The TwinStars got a free kick, which was tapped over to Sidike, who then lashed it in at the near post to make it 2-0. The Park Center alum had four goals in two games. The result leaves Med City’s title defense in question, but also raises the question of where the TwinStars can finish this year. The club has had to play last season’s two top and traveled to Sioux Falls. Six points from that schedule is great and we may be looking at a playoff team afterall.

Sioux Falls Thunder 0-1 Dakota Fusion

It was quieter then their last win, but the Fusion have kept the train rolling with a key win on the road to the Sioux Falls Thunder. The goal came from Yu Tsukanome, who scored a hat trick in the club’s previous match and seems to be fitting into his new home in the NPSL North quite well.

A reminder that Tsukanome signed to the team from an academy in Japan. This season is essentially his US debut. It is also the club’s first clean sheet of the season, perhaps the biggest note of their night.

Sioux Falls remain without a win amid a troubled start to their campaign, though they’ve also yet to play Joy or Aris, games they may well pick up 9-12 points in. With Med City’s loss, this result put the Fusion in second place, leading on the tiebreakers of points per game, goals scored, and goal differential. It’s a huge reward for a hard week of work and makes their incoming game against Duluth all the more interesting.

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