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NPSL North Round Up: Week 5

Med City continued to dominate the North with Duluth and Minneapolis City following close behind as we approach the halfway mark of the 2019 campaign.

June 1, 2019 - Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States - Duluth FC player Carlyle Junior passes the ball during the Minneapolis City SC vs Duluth FC match at Edor Nelson Field. 

(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
Carlyle Junior plays the ball for Duluth FC in their 2-1 win over Minneapolis City
Steffenhagen Photography

Week 5:

Wednesday:

Duluth FC vs Med City FC

With both teams coming off of a series of positive results and already caring a reputation as two of the conference’s stronger clubs, Wednesday’s matchup between Duluth and Med City was always going to be a big one. The first half would be largely controlled by Duluth, with Med City only only managing a few moments of danger. However, Med City goalkeeper Alexander Jarvis provided a masterful performance throughout the game, particularly in the last 10 minutes of the first half, in which he stopped several commonly thought unsaveable shots.

The second half would bring a goal for Med City via Alan Wismayer, who glanced a well placed cross with his head and found the side netting. Duluth would find the equalizer less than 10 minutes later via Brooks Rice, who spiked the ball into the top of the net after it fell kindly for him in the box. Rice was Duluth’s best threat throughout the game, frequently leaving his defender utterly beaten. It would end 1-1 with both sides feeling they could have potentially gotten all three, though Duluth had perhaps the best of the chances.

Sioux Falls Thunder FC vs Dakota Fusion FC

Sioux Falls’s deliberate buildup earned them a deserved lead in the 23rd minute as they played neatly down the right wing and eventually a cross deflected into the Fusion goal off a defender. Thunder had a majority of passes during the game but Fusion’s more direct style eventually won the day. Both sides attacked more frequently and urgently after conceding but Thunder’s concession of two goals in two minutes would ultimately make the difference.

The equalizer was a direct free kick from the left wing by Emra Beljulji which scudded into the bottom right corner of the goal. The second goal saw Fusion pour forward down the right wing after a crunching tackle in the center circle before Isaac Kehson finished off the move. The final goal saw another Fusion counter down the right and a further hard tackle made, this time on the advancing keeper who was subsequently substituted. Play was allowed to continue and the ball was slotted into the empty net for Kehson's second. The battle for Dakotan pride is tilted the way of the North and Fusion continue their roller coaster ride of a season.

Maplebrook TwinStars vs Minneapolis City SC

With games against Duluth and Med City in the next two weeks, City’s trip to Maple Grove would prove a vital chance to secure points prior to two tough games. The two sides were often at odds last season, resulting in several highly publicized moments. Wednesday’s match, thankfully, lacked the theatrics of last season, but it still had all the action we hope for in a City/TwinStars face off. City took the lead twice in the first half, 1-0 thanks to Abdallah Bah and 1-2 thanks to Whitney Browne. The TwinStars, however, showed the same fight that earned them a draw in Duluth and tied before half time, leaving the two sides even at 2-2.

City would find their winner in the second half via Kevin Hoof, resulting in an eventual 3-2 scoreline. It was a big win for City, who looked at half time like they may be the next victims of a Maplebrook 2-2 draw. The win extended their record to 4-0-0 in 2019.

Saturday:

Minneapolis City SC vs Duluth FC

A set of second half subs were the difference as Duluth FC took down Minneapolis City 2-1 on the road at Edor Nelson Field Saturday night. Honors were even in the first half as both sides looked only able to land passing blows against their rivals. Duluth opened brightly to get the first chance of the game in the 3rd minute, but largely saw the Crows develop more comfort as time progressed. City ended up with the better of the chances as time went on, with a quick pair of shots in the 34th minute by Abdallah Bah and Will Kidd hitting the woodwork followed by a Max Stiegwardt shot from distance parried away by the Bluegreens’ keeper Sullivan Lauderdale.

With the balance of play tilted just slightly in the home side’s favor as the half started, it was no shock to see them draw first blood. Justin Oliver, who came on for Will Kidd at halftime, ran through the Duluth defense to score in the 57th minute from the top of the box. It only took ten minutes for the visiting side to respond, as James Westfield capped off a series of attacks with a rough and tumble goal past Matt Elder. The goal gave the visiting Bluegreens a second wind, with their midfield stifling all attempts from City to build out of the back. But it took a little bit of luck to ultimately break the deadlock, as second half substitute Lucas Jacobs’ shot off the underside of the bar appeared to just cross the line in the 86th minute. City was unable to press for an equalizer, and despite forcing Sullivan Lauderdale into eight saves on fourteen shots took their first conference loss in nineteen matches.

Maplebrook TwinStars vs Med City FC

Med City continued their dominating 2019 campaign on the road to the TwinStars, recovering well from their tough match with Duluth and adding a 4-1 win to their collection. That 4-1 win came against a TwinStars side that had previously drawn Duluth 2-2 and only narrowly lost to City 3-2.

Francisco Neto, who was recently named Player of the Week by the NPSL, scored a hat trick to help his side to their fourth win of the season. With Minneapolis City dropping all three points against Duluth, Med City now have space to perhaps become the frontrunners in the title race. While it is certainly too soon for anyone to claim the prize, Med City are doing the work and getting points where both City and Duluth sometimes haven't.

Sunday:

La Crosse Aris FC vs Dakota Fusion FC

The first win in a few seasons for Aris came courtesy of a wild afternoon in Wisconsin. Diego Arenal began the scoring in the 3rd minute, followed by Luis Wilson only a minute later. Damien Baltide scored a third on 15 but Fusion battled back to 3-2 with goals from Jacques Ncengetere in the 21st minute and Nuukele Gboe in the 27th. Battling would be the key word shortly after half time as Fusion attacker Isaac Kehson received two yellow cards within a minute for dissent and then abusive language. Adhemar Lino Cortez reinforced the advantage with Aris’s fourth goal in the 67th minute and Damien Baltide grabbed his second, and Aris’s fifth in the 83rd minute to complete the rout and send Fusion to a record of W-L-W-L in their last four matches.

NPSL North Standings after Week 5 of the 2019 season
Ashle Norling/E Pluribus Loonum

Week 6 Schedule*:

Wednesday:

Med City FC vs Minneapolis City SC

With Med City marching on and City dropping three at home, the match up between the two in Week 6 may prove a huge chance for both to cement themselves. A win for Med City should leave the entire conference worried about their challenge for the title, but a win for Minneapolis would through an already tight race for the playoffs into mayhem. Francisco Neto is proving a revelation over in Rochester, but Minneapolis City are simply never an easy team to beat, or draw.

Sioux Falls Thunder FC vs Maplebrook TwinStars

Both Sioux Falls and the TwinStars ares struggling for points and Aris’ recent win should leave both a little nervous that they can no longer assume they are immune to finishing last. The match between the two will likely have little affect on the playoff race, but it will provide a midseason window into how both clubs are doing after both highs and lows from the first five matches.

Saturday:

La Crosse Aris FC vs Med City FC

Aris’ historic win against the Fusion last weekend may leave some hoping for more magic this weekend, though Med City simply seem destined to win this round’s matchup. Virtually unable to not score, Med City will be the favorites to win this one and maintain their spot at the top, though their earlier match against Minneapolis City may add some context to how strong that position is.

Maplebrook TwinStars vs Dakota Fusion FC

The TwinStars, depending on how the Sioux Falls midweek match goes, will want to grab six points this week and potentially rekindle the fire that they seemed to have earlier in the season, prior to their tough 4-1 loss to Med City. Fusion, meanwhile, will likely be hungry for points to wash out the bad taste of being the first club to lose to La Crosse Aris in several seasons. The Fusion did tally a win against the TwinStars earlier in the season at home, and it’s hard to say who the favorites are here. Both clubs will want to get something out of this one, albeit for very different reasons.

Sioux Falls Thunder FC vs Duluth FC

Fresh off of a big win in Minneapolis, Duluth will need to head out to Sioux Falls in search of all three points. The north shore club simply can't afford to drop points in the midst of its return to the title race conversation. Sioux Falls, who have a midweek game to manage as well, will hope to recreate the difficult conditions that led to their close 1-2 loss to Duluth last year at home. Duluth are the favorites for this one, but Sioux Falls are always able to cause an upset at home.

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