If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again — emphasis on both of the tries.
It took two rapid fire goals in the second half for Minneapolis City SC to down Med City FC for the first (and most important) time all season, winning 2-1 in a testy affair between the two North Conference rivals who had just faced off four days earlier. Eli Goldman and Nick Hutton scored in the 70th and 71st minutes for the somewhat home side—the Crows were left to hastily find an alternate venue at Benilde-St. Margaret High School due to the last-minute scheduling of the unexpected playoff—before Jack Hilton-Jones’s 77th minute penalty gave hope for the visitors to force a breakneck final 20 minutes.
Neither side came out with much vigor early in the first half, with Minneapolis City’s starting XI rotated back to full strength after Friday’s 1-0 defeat to the visitors from Rochester. Med City countered with essentially their same lineup, having needed the full three points to maintain their spot in the Region playoffs for the first time. The early stages were largely left to feeling each other out, as Med City reverted to a bunker/counter style that contrasted with the pressure they put on the Crows in the prior match. Minneapolis had the run of play in the opening quarter hour but were generally unable to string together short passes and clean touches. That untidy play helped Med City gain a foothold, though a string of soft fouls by each team kept the half from maintaining any semblance of rhythm.
The second half started more brightly for the host Minneapolis City, as a string of close efforts forced Mayhem goalkeeper AJ Jarvis into a stellar double save in the 52nd minute. With the Crows quicker to the bench—in particular bringing on an electric Kevin Andrews for Will Kidd—chances began to mount, with counter attacking play the best hope for Med City to force mistakes. As play opened up, one of those mistakes in the 70th minute—a set of bad passes around the top of the Crows’ defensive 18-yard box by Jonah Garcia threatened to gift Med City a chance—ended up springing a counter of their own, as fast movement by Abdallah Bah on a marauding run opened Eli Goldman on the far side to shoot across goal for the opening tally. With the Crows in the ascendancy, a strike no more than 90 seconds later by Nick Hutton took a welcome deflection to beat Jarvis for Minneapolis City’s second.
The visitors responded soon after, forcing a 76th minute corner that saw an off-ball foul called a penalty for the visitors. After a brief delay for shoving back and forth between Crows goalkeeper Matt Elder (who was carded for time wasting as he took hold of the ball) and a number of Med City players including Alan Wismayer and Jack Hilton-Jones (also carded for their efforts), Hilton-Jones stepped up to slot the spot kick coolly down the middle against a left-diving Elder. The 77th minute goal was the spark Med City needed to go into an all-out direct assault against Minneapolis City, eliciting through ball after through ball to try and pass through Jonah Garcia and Aaron Olson on the Crows’ back line. Minneapolis City was able to get one solid effort at an insurance goal, but Tim Wills’ try at an 84th minute chip prompted Alex Jarvis into yet another point blank save.
The Mayhem lived up to their nickname afterward, forcing a number of free kicks late that were ultimately dealt with by the Crows’ defense. The chaos side, however, also came through. A 91st minute appeal for a handball penalty was resolutely waved off by the center referee, which prompted both a yellow card for dissent to Med City midfielder Ayo Adebayo and a direct red card for an unidentified member of the Med City bench. Their ensuing delay in leaving the field and a general scrum of disarray at midfield led fans to wonder if the match had in fact finished. Instead, nine minutes of stoppages that included two more free kick chances for the visitors were ultimately observed, with Minneapolis City somehow holding on to the 2-1 victory.
Because of the region’s seeding and geographic matching, the victorious City was preordained to face the Midwest Regional host Detroit City FC Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. Central Time (7:30 local time), with the winners taking on the victors of Friday’s first semifinal matchup in a noon Sunday kickoff (1 p.m. local). The region’s top seed Cleveland SC will have to wait for the luck of the draw to determine their opponent, as AFC Ann Arbor and Rochester Lancers’ game was abandoned on 69 minutes Tuesday night due to storms and a lack of field lighting, necessitating the victor to be determined via coin toss (no, seriously). Tickets for each Region Playoff match are available via the Detroit City FC website for those making the trip. Streaming links have not yet been made public, but check in with E Pluribus Loonum on Twitter for info when it’s made available; in addition, we’ll be posting regular updates on the matches as they happen.