The match report only tells part of the story in a lot of NPSL matches. For this game, it’ll show a lone goal for Minneapolis City midfielder Martin Browne, Jr. in the 7th minute from the penalty spot and a number of late cards, including a red, for Minnesota TwinStars FC. What won’t be reflected is the enmity between the two teams, worsened by TwinStars postponing the match last month, that transformed a game where final balls were lacking on both ends into a brutal spectacle seeing a frustrated TwinStars side fail to knock off their cross-suburb rivals.
The visiting Minneapolis City commanded the tempo in the first half hour, limiting TwinStars to only one shot in the opening 30 minutes and breaking through within the first seven. As Will Kidd cut from the wing into the top of the box, the City forward was dragged down from behind, yielding a penalty. Martin Browne, Jr. coolly placed the spot kick into the net to the left of Ibrahim Toure to give the Crows the early 1-0 lead. The pressure continued for the bulk of the half, with Tim Wills and Whitney Browne dangerous throughout but unable to latch onto passes into the box. TwinStars eventually gained a foothold in the dying stages of the half, speeding up their passing and connecting well with Tyler Oliver, but found themselves having difficulty getting through the opposing center back pairing of Max Kent and Trey Benhart. Anayo Kwazema gave a preview of the second half in the final minute for the host side, earning a yellow for a hard foul and continued words after the fact.
A cagey start to the second half that saw Minneapolis City content to control the ball in the top of the midfield third was interrupted in the 62nd minute. As TwinStars center back Jeremy Bonyaa came off with a hamstring injury, play was suspended due to a report of lightning, which appeared to strike both sides with surprise and confusion. After a 20 minute delay, play resumed and the TwinStars strategy immediately turned to hard gamesmanship. Hawkim Sinneh played himself into the book in the 68th minute, getting a yellow for a rough foul on Josh De La Rosa that saw the City forward lose his shorts.
Things went fully off the rails in the 73rd minute. David Kromah earned TwinStars’s fourth yellow for a hard foul in the midfield, then followed it up a minute later by shoving Minneapolis City’s Will Kidd to the ground following a tough back-and-forth jostle that knocked each player over. A veritable donnybrook followed with players from both sides shoving each other, including shots from Kromah and Karim Darbaki on the intervening referee, but things were defused with no cards for either side and Kromah only receiving what appeared to be a final warning. Adama Keita followed into the book for dissent in the 80th minute, chest-bumping the referee and delivering foul language after play was called back after a lost advantage call. An elbow thrown by Alieu Kamara in the 84th capped everything off with a straight red card, and while back and forth play for the final six minutes and change reigned, nothing broke through.
The bookings were one thing; the rest of the context suggested even more weirdness. TwinStars broke with their usual protocol of suggesting donations for attendance, charging at the gate for what appeared to be the first time all season with the increase in away fans. Their alternative site at Prairie Seeds Academy featured neither floodlights nor locker rooms, which made the lightning delay all the more surreal given a full lack of shelter for fans and the potential for a delay past dark. Ball kids weren’t supplied, despite both NPSL standards and the presence of a Twin Stars Academy youth team practicing on an adjacent short-side field.
At one point, TwinStars were also counted with twelve players on their bench, presumably five of whom weren’t rostered. The roster sheets provided to Minneapolis City featured inaccurate numbers and included their standout midfielder Karim Darbaki only as a coach; when he was subbed in during the 70th minute, it was revealed that TwinStars gave a different sheet to the referees. Appeals about biting by Anayo Kwazema were heard in the closing moments of the match; while Minneapolis City suggested the claims were in jest, other conversations suggest the claim t’aint without merit. And while it likely wasn’t because of TwinStars actions, the first twenty minutes of the match went without a fourth official present.
In the end, though, maybe the match report shows all that’s needed. The Crows escaped the physical game with three points and, critically for their dwindling squad depth, without new injuries. Minneapolis City’s win puts all eight teams in the Conference on eight matches played, with City claiming a one point lead on VSLT FC. With six games remaining, the Crows hold a seven point lead on the two teams tied for third, TwinStars and Duluth FC, and while only LC Aris are officially out of the playoff hunt at this stage, the continued dominance of the two Twin Cities clubs is spelling last call early for their North rivals.