Following a historic season in the NPSL North in which Minneapolis City won the conference undefeated and Duluth FC won the Midwest Region, E Pluribus Loonum has decided to review 2018 by assigning post-season awards to players and clubs who stood out for their passion, skills, results, and more.
Golden Boot -
With 14 goals in 13 games, the Minnesota TwinStars’ Chase Wright was the highest scoring player in the Midwest-North Conference. Wright was actually tied in second place for the league Golden Boot, losing out to Omar Nuno of Sonoma County Sol FC in the Golden Gate Conference. Nuno scored 20 goals in the same number of games.
With 32 goals scored in total this season, Wright’s 14 represent just under half of his club’s successful strikes and were a major factor in the TwinStars constant relevance when it came to who had a chance of getting toward the top of the table and/or who could grab points from the conference’s top sides.
Golden Glove -
For the Golden Glove a few notable mentions come to mind. First there’s Med City’s Nate Levy. With a dozen goals conceded all season, Levy and his club conceded the least goals in the conference and provided a strong defense performance even when his side deeply struggled to score. Matt Elder of Minneapolis City also deserves credit. After retaking the #1 shirt for the Crows early in the season, the veteran stopper allowed just ten goals in eleven matches started, counting the playoffs. Elder notably saved a penalty that would have halved his side’s lead right before half time in City’s 4-2 win over Duluth FC, the match which won them the conference.
Ultimately, though, you have to give it to Duluth’s Jan Hoffelner, whose club sported the conference’s third best GA rate. While Duluth conceded 15 goals this season, Hoffelner was only on the field for 12 of said goals. Hoffelner also started in all four playoff games for Duluth. His stingy performances in the regular and post season earned him the goalkeeping position on the conference, regional, and national NPSL Best XI’s, all of which culminated in the league awarding him the NPSL Golden Glove.
Season MVP -
The North Conference placed two players on the national NPSL Best XI: Hoffelner and Minneapolis City midfielder Max Stiegwardt. Playing in the pivot role, Stiegwardt was the focal point for the North’s top team, winning balls in front of the back line, cycling play as the team switched into its lethal attack, and picking up five goals in the process. Hoffelner’s standout performances were certainly commendable, particularly in Duluth’s playoff run, but consider this: in the six games that Stiegwardt didn’t feature for the Crows, Minneapolis City went 2-1-3, whereas in the nine games he played the team was 8-0-1. Looking strictly at points, it’s tough to argue against Stiegwardt’s performances.
An added shout needs to go to Med City striker Claudio Repetto. One of the most consistent players in the league, Repetto was one of four Med City players who started in every match for the team this season—a feat only reached twelve times in the entire NPSL in 2018—and notched his eleven goals in six different games for the Medics. For a side that otherwise lacked offensive firepower, the Italian forward kept things interesting in Rochester deep into the season.
Most Improved Side -
Once again there’s a few paths to take here. Minneapolis City earned 9 more points than last season and jumped two places along with winning the title, that’s the largest point increase and the only improvement which involves winning two trophies (the conference and the Minnesota Cup). With all that in mind, City win the Most Improved Award.
However, we feel an important honorable mention is due for La Crosse Aris. No, they did not earn more points than in their previous season, they earned just one. Despite that singular point, eyes across the conference took note of Aris’ ability to always come quite close to earning more.
Several times this season they looked like they were on the cusp of earning three or four draws. They conceded 11 less goals this season and had a better goal difference by 10. Perhaps most notably their one point came against the deadliest team in the conference. The history books will forever show that the only team that Minneapolis City went 90 minutes without scoring against this season was indeed La Crosse Aris. For these reasons, Aris earn a strong honorable mention.
Longest Trip Award -
As we near the end of this award giving journey, let’s give an award for well... going on journeys. Duluth FC traveled the longest distance for a match in any competition this season when they went to Miami, Florida, which is 1,798 miles away from Duluth. That trip was for the NPSL National Semi-Final following their victory in the regional final.
Another long trip, and the second longest by any NPSL North side this year, that was the topic of conversation this season was Minneapolis City’s almost 900 mile trip to Rochester, New York during the U.S. Open Cup qualifiers. That trip would go on to be used as a example as to why the traveling rules for the tournament needed to be adjusted and as evidence to how the USOC can both benefit and hurt lower league clubs. With all this in mind, both trips go to show that with the ever rising ambitions of the NPSL North’s clubs comes ever bigger challenges with travel.
Red Handed Award -
This award goes to the club with the most red cards in the 2018 season, which was the Minnesota TwinStars. Those cards were given to Alieu Kamara and Hawkim Sinneh against Minneapolis City, one in each game the two sides played, and Christian Deaconson and Andrew Avram while playing Duluth FC.
It should be noted that despite the reputation earned this season for earning quite a few cards and fouls this season, the TwinStars only won this award by one red card with Med City earning three this season. With all the bad media situations the TwinStars found themselves in, from the #technicaldifficulties conundrum to the multiple accusations of biting, TwinStars may have earned themselves an unwanted reputation when it comes to antics on and off the pitch. However you may feel about their season and that reputation, the fact is that this season they got caught red handed... four times.