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NPSL North Round Up: Weeks 8 and 9

Minneapolis pick up six crucial points while Med City tops Duluth in a 3-1 home win, all of which sets up an eventful final three matches for the NPSL North.

June 22, 2019 - Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States - A MapleBrook Twinstars player kicks the ball during a match against Minneapolis City SC at Edor Nelson Field.
June 22, 2019 - Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States - A MapleBrook Twinstars player kicks the ball during a match against Minneapolis City SC at Edor Nelson Field.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Week 8:

Wednesday:

Dakota Fusion FC vs Minneapolis City SC

The Crows rolled into Moorhead still fighting for a playoff spot. Max Stiegwardt opened the scoring in the 3rd and responded immediately to an Isaac Kehson goal in the 13th minute. The visitors proved to have more firepower and pushed ahead with goals from William Kidd just before half time. City played like there hadn’t been a break when Justin Oliver reinforced the lead in the 48th and they completed their scoring through Aidan O’Driscoll in the 52nd. Fusion got a consolation through a 69th minute bullet free kick from Nuukele Gboe.

Maplebrook TwinStars vs Duluth FC

Duluth traveled to Maple Grove in search of three points, with a major title decider waiting for them only three days later. The squad disposed of the TwinStars quite effectively, managing two goals in the first half from Carlyle Junior and James Westfield. Westfield added a third in the second half as Duluth secured its fifth clean sheet of the season.

Junior and Westfield are now joint top league goal scorers for Duluth, with 6 a piece. Junior has an additional goal via the U.S. Open Cup. The TwinStars, meanwhile, showed the ability to create chances but were consistently unable to convert. Former BlueGreen Garga Nyuah challenged goalkeeper Alberto Ciroi on several occasions, but the Italian easily controlled his 18 yard box for the full 90 minutes.

Saturday:

Dakota Fusion FC vs Sioux Falls Thunder FC

When Isaac Kehson had a shot blocked in the fifth minute from point blank range, it looked like it would be Sioux Falls’s night and a 12 man Thunder roster led the majority of the night and scored two goals within a minute through Nigel Nielsen and Rodrigo Oliveira after 14 before Jean Marc Mpemba benefited from an errant backpass from Emra Beljulji to put Thunder up by 3 and a seamily unassailable lead after only 30 minutes.

A clear penalty sparked a Fusion rally and Isaac Kehson brought it back to a one goal margin shortly before half time. Fusion began the second half as they ended the first but their incessant pressure finally saw an equalizer through a solo effort from Nuukele Gboe in the 89th minute.

Med City FC vs Duluth FC

Med City hosted fellow unbeaten side Duluth FC on the weekend in what could prove to be a major decider for the conference’s top two spots. Both clubs’ defensive lines managed well in the first half, with both goalkeepers making several saves to keep things even. The half time whistle arrived with a 0-0 draw which left some wondering if we’d see a result similar to the 1-1 draw the two clubs fought to earlier in the season.

Med City, however, proved deadlier than Duluth could handle and the Rochester-side scored two quick goals in the 71st and 77th minutes, the second being a penalty after the ball was handled in the 18 yard box. Roster and Neto’s goals left Duluth with only 10+ minutes to turn things around. Lucas Jacobs handed Duluth a life line in the 86th when he scored to make things 2-1, his second goal of the season, but Med City came back quickly in the 88th to make it 3-1.

The game would end with that scoreline. It would be Duluth’s first loss of the 2019 NPSL season. The result puts a huge amount of advantage in the hands of Med City, who will play their other title rivals, Minneapolis City, in the final week of the season.

Minneapolis City SC vs Maplebrook TwinStars

Eli Goldman grabbed the only goal of the most recent iteration of the City/TwinStars rivalry, scoring his first for the Crows in the 79th minute after a rough match that saw City make the most of their chances while avoiding punishment from several deadly chances on behalf of Maplebrook. It was a calm scoreline for both sides, but with recent results the win proved crucial for City, who now have the chance to secure the first place spot of the NPSL until they face the likes of Duluth and Med City in the final weeks of conference play.

The result also provided Minneapolis with their fourth clean sheet of the season after, a strong sign of progressive strength. City have conceded 8 goals this season, the second to the least in the north.

Week 9:

Saturday:

La Crosse Aris FC vs Maplebrook TwinStars FC

Aris suffered a late loss against TwinStars on a blistering Saturday afternoon. The Wisconsin-side held out Maplebrook in a 1-1 draw until the final minutes of the match when Sadra Golzarian scored a 90th minute winner for the TwinStars. Ivan Adika had opened the scoring for TwinStars early on in the match, only for Damien Baltide of Aris to find the net four minutes later. TwinStars had a penalty saved in the second half, with Aris doing anything it could to hold on to their point.

The win keeps TwinStars only three points behind Duluth but unlikely to earn a playoff spot, while also providing a reminder that Aris can find ways to grab points.

Sioux Falls Thunder FC vs Minneapolis City SC

Having conquered the TwinStars in a tough home match the week before, Minneapolis traveled to South Dakota to face the Thunder in a key match before facing Duluth and Med City in the final weeks of the season. The Crows found their solution quickly, as Will Kidd scored twice in 20 minutes right from the kick off. The scoreline remained the same despite several chances, but it was all Minneapolis needed to secure three points and a clean sheet.

The result leaves City in first place but with their final two games against the two clubs that represent their biggest threats. Losing either match could trigger a collapse in the race for first place, but points from both could be enough to give the Crows back-to-back NPSL Midwest-North conference titles.

Sunday:

La Crosse Aris FC vs Duluth FC

Duluth visited Aris less than 24 hours after La Crosse’s previous match, the result of a rescheduled match day via Aris, and joined them once again in facing blistering temperatures, with water breaks brought in to fight the, at one point, 100 degree temperatures. The game proved action packed, however, as Duluth scored three goals via James Westfield, Soham Kathuria, and Nico Torres to secure yet another clean sheet and away win. Aris’ keeper proved a key player for the home side, saving several to keep the scoreline from doubling.

With their last two games being against City and a rematch against Aris, Duluth can certainly still climb the table and secure a playoff run, but the club may need some luck from Med City to manage its second conference title.

Med City FC vs Dakota Fusion FC

At half time, with a 0-0 draw on the board against a Fusion side with only 10 men following Isaac Kehson’s red card for violent conduct after only 23 minutes, it seemed that Med City may have stumbled into yet another slip up result, like their 2-2 draw with Sioux Falls only weeks earlier. Med City certainly had other plans. Francisco Neto opened the scoring in the 52nd minute, slotting in a penalty for his 9th goal of the season, the most in the Midwest region. Ayo Adebayo, Jordan Lennon, and Jack Hilton-Jones would find the net 4 more times in the next 35 minutes to make it 5-0 by the final whistle.

It was yet another dominant result from Med City, who are becoming favorites for both the playoffs and the title. With their last two games against the TwinStars and Minneapolis City, a double against Twin Cities opposition is all it would take for the Rochester-club to win their first NPSL conference title.

NPSL North Standings after Week 9 of the 2019 season
Ashle Norling/E Pluribus Loonum

Week 10 Schedule:

Saturday:

Dakota Fusion FC vs La Crosse Aris FC

The Fusion will have a chance to redeem their away loss to Aris when the club visits Moorhead this weekend, though they should be careful to not fall victim to La Crosse twice after the club came close to getting points off of the TwinStars. The result will not affect the playoff race, but may give one side or the other some positives to work with in the soon-approaching offseason.

Med City FC vs Maplebrook TwinStars FC

Med City playing TwinStars in the second to last week of play is a perfectly dangerous fixture. With the TwinStars always capable of hunting down a point or two against the top sides, Med City will need to work hard to avoid slipping and dropping key points. Anything other than a win will give Duluth room to leap frog or for City to completely dominant the first place spot.

Sunday:

Duluth FC vs Minneapolis City SC

The fixture of the weekend could also decide the title as the Crows go up to Duluth. Whoever wins will put one hand on the playoffs, but a loss for either could kill the chance to have a post-season. Duluth managed a surprise win against the Crows earlier in the season in Minneapolis, the BlueGreens will have to find a way to make the magic work at home if they want to create a late-season run for the title.

La Crosse Aris FC vs Sioux Falls Thunder FC

Neither club has playoffs to play for, but the winner of this match will essentially lock in the second-to-last spot on the table, dooming the other to the bottom spot. Both teams struggle consistently, leaving plenty of room for either to top the other. Aris will be playing two games in two days for the second time this season, but its a challenge they’ll have to accept if they want to make some history and earn four or six points this season.