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NPSL North Recap: Week 9

Minneapolis City wrapped up the North title against Duluth, while Med City’s big win over Dakota and a VSLT loss make the race for the second spot tight into the final week.

NPSL North Conference logos
NPSL North Conference teams
E Pluribus Loonum

Wednesday

LC Aris FC vs. Med City FC

In one of their tightest results of the season, Aris narrowly lost to Rochester’s Med City FC 2-1 after earning their first point of the season four days before against Minneapolis City. All three goals were scored from the 80th minute onward with Aris scoring last, but the result continues to show a string of promising performances from the otherwise undervalued squad. Despite starting the season in a more predictable way, La Crosse’s matches against bigger clubs like Minneapolis, Duluth, Med City, and as you’ll read later against the TwinStars, have all been closer and more contested than people have grown used to.

Duluth FC vs. Minnesota TwinStars FC

Though the weekend result would eventually cancel out this plot point, Duluth’s hard fought 3-2 win against TwinStars was exactly what the BlueGreens needed to ignite the title race and keep things up in the air for another round. The TwinStars had a strong first half, leading 2-1, and probably felt confident they’d bring him a point or three when they also found themselves up a man following a red card for Duluth’s Aidan Hill. Despite the many obstacles arising, Duluth found their way back into the game with two goals from Tom Corcoran and Gonnie Ben-Tal and took advantage of series of red cards for the Minnetonka side, though their second red came in stoppage time. Duluth’s reds (Alberto Ciroi, who was on the bench, also received one) were their first of the regular season, with the TwinStars receiving two of many they’ve earned over the last two months. The win would be the fifth straight for Duluth, who now find themselves in a position to cause trouble for the likes of VSLT and Med City who are chasing the second playoff spot.

Minneapolis City SC vs. VSLT FC

A tight affair that saw an assistant referee called into action to determine three possible goals ultimately saw Minneapolis City win 2-1, sweeping both legs of the Green Line Derby and taking the All-Minnesota Cup in the process. VSLT commanded the early pressure through a frenetic press, with the Crows taking a long time to settle into the match. As they gained a foothold, a 27th minute long throw pinged through the box to the head of Tim Wills, whose shot was ruled to have crossed the line before a VSLT defender could clear it. Similar calls for a goal went unheard for the visitors in the 42nd, as a shot bounced out from underneath the crossbar. VSLT leveled after the break when Pedro Galeano’s 51st minute volley bounced off of City midfielder Ian Smith during a failed clearance. Both sides traded pressure throughout the latter stages, with Nick Hinds getting another shot cleared off the line in the 57th. The bulk of the late chances swung in Minneapolis City’s favor, and the home side capitalized in the 86th minute when Will Kidd’s cross into the box bounced to substitute Juan Louis, whose high shot passed by Alejandro Quiriti for the winning goal.

Sioux Falls Thunder FC vs. Dakota Fusion FC

The battle for Dakotan pride finished level on the season after the home team in each match-up won their match. In many ways this match epitomised the inconsistency of Fusion this season. Anttenh Zia started the South Dakotans on the path to victory in the 27th minute, Nigel Nielsen doubled their lead in the 37th. Brice Holiday made it 3 just before the half. The fourth Thunder goal came courtesy of a Fusion own goal in the 64th minute. Akeem Smith closed the gap in the 72nd minute and it was 4-2 in the 86th minute as Nuukele Gboe scored his second goal in two infrequent appearances. Rafael Domingos made it 5-2 to Thunder in the 88th minute. It is a curiosity of this season that even at this late stage, the North Dakotans are still debuting new players - this night seeing Brandon Sands make his apparent debut. #nonleaguelife

Saturday:

Minnesota TwinStars FC v Aris SC

With both sides rostering less than a full complement of players, a controlled and mild-mannered affair saw Minnesota TwinStars get a 3-0 home win against LC Aris. Chase Wright tallied two goals on either side of halftime, adding to his region-leading 14 goals on the season. Goalkeeper Sean Teske also tallied in second half stoppage time.

Med City FC v Dakota Fusion FC

Fusion rolled into Rochester with assistant manager Amin Ahmed the only coach making the trip. They may have needed assistance from the Mayo Clinic to get home, not because of any foul play by Med City but because the home team seemingly converted all the chances which they had failed to convert in Moorhead. A staggering eleven goals went past fourth string goalkeeper Brandon Gonzalez—including an exceptional quartet from Claudio Repetto—as the home side shut out the Fusion. Nik Roessler, Midhat Mujic, Finlay Bloodworth and braces from Nicholas Itopoulos and Francisco Neto—who also contributed three assists—completed the rout and kept the Medics alive for the second spot in the division.

Minneapolis City SC v Duluth FC

Minneapolis City continued to rack up hardware Saturday, clinching the North Conference title and a place in the Midwest Region playoffs with a 4-2 win over their Twin Ports rivals. The Crows broke out with a 4-3-3 with recent striker Tim Wills in midfield, using the pace of their wingers Will Kidd and Nick Hutton to attack the Bluegreen back line early. Fullback Abdallah Bah opened the scoring on 34 minutes with a curling effort to the far post, with recent signing Justin Oliver adding his first of the night four minutes later past Jan Hoffelner. A stoppage time penalty would have given Duluth the momentum coming into the half, but City goalkeeper Matt Elder held firm to deny Joe Watt. Duluth came out of the break strong, opening their scoring in the 49th minute when Liam Moore slotted in a centering ball. Justin Oliver wasn’t done for the home side, however, restoring the two goal advantage minutes later. Duluth kept working for a result, getting a second in the 68th after David Rice pinged in a shot off of the leg of Abdallah Bah, but City put things beyond doubt in the 81st when Will Kidd finished a run by Sekou Kromah off and into the net.

June 30, 2018 - Osseo, Minnesota, United States - Minneapolis City SC midfielder Max Stiegwardt (7) kisses the Crows Crest as Minneapolis City SC defeat Duluth FC 4-2 and are crowned champions of the NPSL North at John Hansen Stadium. 

(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
June 30, 2018 - Osseo, Minnesota, United States - Minneapolis City SC midfielder Max Stiegwardt (7) kisses the Crows Crest as Minneapolis City SC defeat Duluth FC 4-2 and are crowned champions of the NPSL North at John Hansen Stadium. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Sioux Falls Thunder FC v VSLT FC

In a weekend that saw their head coach Angel Gracia depart for bereavement leave, VSLT saw their playoff hopes take a tumble in a physical 3-2 loss at Sioux Falls that saw 12 yellow cards and a sending off for Pedro Galeano. The home Thunder started brightly with a pair of goals in the first 18 minutes, including an impressive 40 yard strike from Amadu Myers, but VSLT snapped back with a penalty kick for Andrew Jenkins and a crossed finish for Mark Boquin before the half came to a close. The litany of tactical fouls that pockmarked the first half came to a head in the 84th minute when Galeano got a second card; on the ensuing play, Michael Haight slotted home the late winner to give the Thunder their third win on the season.

NPSL North : Week 9 (top 2 clubs advance to playoffs)

Team Record Points GD
Team Record Points GD
Minneapolis City SC (c p) 9-0-4. 31 24
Duluth FC 7-2-4. 25 15
Med City FC 6-3-4. 22 19
VSLT FC 6-4-2. 20 7
Minnesota TwinStars FC 5-5-3. 18 6
Dakota Fusion FC 4-6-3. 15 -18
Sioux Falls Thunder 3-9-1. 10 -10
LC Aris 0-11-1. 1 -43
c= Champion p= Playoff qualified *Aris and VSLT have an unplayed, not yet scheduled game NPSL

Schedule for Week 10*:

Friday:

Med City FC vs. Duluth FC

Med City’s huge win against Dakota Fusion and Duluth and VSLT’s respective losses to Minneapolis City and Sioux Falls all mean Friday’s game has the potential to turn into a playoff decider. Should Med City win, anything less than two wins in VSLT’s remaining games would put the Mayhem in the playoffs; if Duluth wins, they clinch the second spot. If the two sides draw, it’ll come down to whether or not VSLT can catch up on both points and a -10 goals scored differential against Aris and TwinStars.

Saturday:

VSLT FC v Minnesota TwinStars FC

If Friday’s Med City-Duluth game doesn’t render this game academic, it’s possible that this Metro derby could be filled with fireworks. Both teams have been card-happy this year, and if VSLT need to make up goals in bunches to catch Duluth it could really change each side’s usual tactic of relying on ball control; when VSLT have tried to open things up, they’ve been vulnerable to pace at the back, which TwinStars can beat with route one plays to the conference goal leader Chase Wright.

Dakota Fusion FC v Minneapolis City SC

While the conference title is wrapped up for City, they still have to contend for a top playoff seed against AFC Ann Arbor and either Erie Commodores or Cleveland SC. As it stands, City leads on points per game in the region, but would fall below each conference’s leaders with a loss or draw. The amount of injuries in their side might mean that the Crows would need to take the game seriously anyway. As for the Fusion, the focus will be on picking themselves up following a disastrous loss against Med City last weekend and getting a positive end to a disappointing season.

LC Aris FC v Sioux Falls Thunder FC

Last year’s fixture between the two bottom teams in the conference gave Aris their only point of the year. After respectable home matches against Minneapolis City and Med City, will they go after the Thunder in hopes for their first conference win since 2013? By all accounts, doing so would undo the defensive organization that marked those results, especially against a Thunder side emboldened by two straight wins.

*For exact kickoff times, locations, and tickets, visit the websites of the home club, which can be found by clicking the bolded team