With Edor Nelson Field under construction, the Crows flew up to Osseo, went unbeaten in the regular season, and won the North Conference crown for the first time in style.
There was a quiet focus bordering on fuming desire to make things right coming from the club. 2017 had been a great disappointment on the field. Qualification for the 2018 U.S. Open Cup through the regional qualifiers had ended at the final hurdle: a 2,000 mile round trip to snowy Rochester, NY and a 2-1 loss in the final qualifying round. Off the field there was trouble as well. The club’s fantastic Cedar-Riverside stadium was under construction and that forced the Crows to play in a high school stadium in the northwestern suburb of Osseo.
Adam Pribyl remained as head coach, his second season at the helm. He brought in Matt vanBenschoten to coach the newly-established U23 team and as assistant coach for the NPSL team. It proved a masterstroke.
The Crows flew under the radar in the preseason. The Twitterati were all tipping Duluth to repeat with both Med City and VSLT getting more attention than the Crows.
What you need to know: Minneapolis City won the conference title without losing a game and scored more goals than any other team in the country in the process.
Considering how the season ended, the Crows started slowly as a skeleton, but still capable, team traveled to Sioux Falls the first week of May and left with a 2-2 draw. Then, the results started to happen: a 3-2 win vs Med City, a 5-0 demolition of Dakota Fusion back when everyone thought they would be decent, and a creditable 1-1 draw at Duluth.
Arguably, though, the defining game of the season and greatest performance from any Crows team was in the Green Line Derby against VSLT FC. The Sky Blues entered the game in first place with the fewest goals conceded in the country. By the end of the first half that total goals conceded number was doubled as a rampant Minneapolis City scored four. The game ended 5-1.
There were battles still to come: the ridiculous Technical Difficulties antics of the TwinStats, followed by the MMA antics of the TwinStars, followed by late heroics against VSLT, and crowned by the 4-2 win over Duluth to win the league. However, that game in St. Paul made it clear that this Crows team was simply phenomenal, and would not be stopped.
Head Coach: Adam Pribyl
Captain: Aaron Olson
North Conference: Champions (1st time)
Midwest Region: Semifinals
Top Goalscorers: Tim Wills, Martin Browne, Whitney Browne, Branden McGarrity (6)
U.S. OPEN CUP
|10/22/17||Aurora Borealis FC||3-2|
D at Sioux Falls Thunder
You would not have been able to tell it was going to be a record-breaking season from the way it started. The Crows were the better team but, up 2-1, gave up a wonder goal and managed to hit everything but the back of the net in drawing 2-2.
W vs Med City FC
The first game at Osseo didn’t start well as Claudio Repetto scored early and celebrated in front of the City bench. But the Crows fought back. Branden McGarrity scored a brace and Martin Browne chipped in as well to deservedly win 3-2.
W vs Dakota Fusion
To this point, Fusion were a top team in the conference. They had finished second the year before and taken Duluth to extra time in the Open Cup. But the Max Stiefwardt chipped the keeper from 35 yards, Whitney Browne netted a hat trick, and Martin Browne scored a goal of the season contender to send them back to Moorhead in disarray.
D at Duluth FC
Another battle between two bitter rivals. Will Kidd’s first half goal was canceled out by Duluth, but it was otherwise a cagey match between two wary foes.
W at VSLT FC
Possibly the best performance by a City team. The Crows stormed to a 4-0 first half lead against a VSLT team that had, to that point, had the best defense in the country. A raucous crowd watched the match finish 5-1.
W vs La Crosse Aris
Tim Wills scored a brace on the way to a 5-1 win over La Crosse in a game played at Hopkins High School. It was an odd location but at least a familiar result.
W at Med City FC
Nick Hutton scored an absolute beauty and Will Kidd got the insurance goal, which was needed as Med City put the Crows under serious pressure in the second half but were still beaten 2-1.
W at Minnesota TwinStars
The infamous Technical Difficulties game where TwinStars cancelled the original game in contravention of league rules, the league let it happen, and then TwinStars played the most brutal soccer this side of rugby and still lost 1-0.
W vs Sioux Falls Thunder
Another offensive explosion by the Crows as they proved simply irresistible in beating the Thunder 6-1.
D vs Minnesota TwinStars
More red cards, outrageous fouls, and a shocking lack of sportsmanship from TwinStars along with one of the most questionable penalties ever awarded. The Crows shaded the game, but couldn’t find the winner they deserved in the second half and drew 2-2.
D at La Crosse Aris
This result doesn’t make any sense. In the annals of results that don’t make sense, it probably makes the least sense. The Crows drew 0-0 in La Crosse and I still don’t understand how it happened.
W vs VSLT FC
VSLT was hunting for the title and came to Osseo looking to avenge their 5-1 loss. They were clearly hungry, but the Crows played into the game and two hairline calls defined the game. For the first, Tim Wills’ goal was (correctly) judged to have gone over the line. It was very close. The second, Max Kent was (correctly) judged to have cleared off the line in similar circumstances. When, with just minutes remaining, Juan Louis karate kicked Will Kidd’s cross into the net to win 2-1 VSLT were broken by fate.
W vs Duluth FC
The good thing about the Aris result was that it meant that if City beat Duluth the Crows would win the title. They started the game like they meant it. Abdallah Bah scored what the kids call a worldie, Justin Oliver scored a brace, Matt Elder scored a penalty. It was 2-0 at half and the Crows cruised to a 4-2 win and the title.
W vs Dakota Fusion
City needed a result to finish the regular season #undefeated and they got it against a demoralized Dakota Fusion team that succumbed to an 8-0 hiding.
L vs Duluth FC
Played in Ann Arbor and without and of the team’s NCAA Division 1 players as they had been recalled to school, the Crows were down a man for the first 20 minutes as Abdallah Bah struggled to remove a nose ring. In that time Duluth took a 1-0 lead. Branden McGarrity was hurt, but soldiered through to even the score. In extra time, Myles Norville was called for a handball when he shoulder headed the ball away under no pressure as the Crows lost 2-1.
Overall Record: 11-2-4 (10-0-4 NPSL North)
OWTC PLAYER AWARDS
The three of us watched almost every game this season either in person or on YouTube and together agreed on three player awards for the season.
MVP: Max Stiegwardt (CM) Consistently excellent from the beginning of the season to the very end. The Crows won every game he played in except one, which they drew. He was an NPSL National First XI selection for a good reason.
Breakout Player: Will Kidd (ST) He flipped the switch to beast mode, scoring goals, creating chances, tracking back tirelessly, and driving his team forward with a wonderful relentlessness.
Unsung Hero: Ian Smith (DM) His partnership with Stiegwardt brought solidity and control to a midfield that had always had creative ability. Of course, the creative ability improved too, and Smith did all the dirty work that made it happen.
ALL-TIME BEST XI
The inspiration for this comes from the Boys in Rouge blog. Following that model, we have built our all-time best line-up for Minneapolis City. We emphasize on-field impact more than length of service, this is back-dated to 2018, and we tried to fit in the 4-2-3-1 that Coach Pribyl played.
Subs (5): Branden McGarrity (ST), Whitney Browne (ST/AM), Nick Hutton (AM), Ben Wexler (M), Charlie Adams (FB)