It was always going to be a new test for Minnesota Aurora FC, playing their first non-division opponent after starting the season 12-0-0 within the Heartland. In the end, it was Aurora’s opponent, Indy Eleven, who passed and earned the 2023 Central Conference crown with a narrow 1-0 win.
The rare inability to finish chances that popped up in Minnesota’s conference semifinal win over Chicago City reared its head again on Saturday, but this time it proved fatal.
After a flurry of opportunities in the first half, mostly thwarted thanks to great goalkeeping from Aurora’s Amanda Poorbough, Indy put themselves ahead for good in the 57th minute as Sam Dewey redirected a free kick into the back of the net.
Despite pushing for an equalizer, Minnesota couldn’t find a goal by the time the final whistle blew.
“I’m really proud of this team, it just didn’t go our way today,” said Head Coach Nicole Lukic. “Overall, we’re really happy, they’re a fantastic group to work with every single day. To be honest, that’s the saddest part of this – that we have to wait a long time to get together again. We’ll be back for 2024.”
While the loss is definitely sour for Aurora fans, the regular season was a historic one. A USL W League record for most goals scored (60) and goal differential (+56), an unblemished record, even better attendance numbers than their unbelievable debut season.
As a club, Minnesota are truly on the rise, and will be obvious contenders for the league title once again in 2024.