This season was significant as the Crows returned to Minneapolis, retained the North Conference crown, and won their first playoff game.
The big news in the preseason was Minneapolis City returning to Minneapolis! The club was able to get back to the stadium at Augsburg University.
There was a reshuffle in the coaching ranks. Adam Pribyl became Athletics Director and his former assistant and U23 head coach Matt VanBenschoten took over the NPSL team.
The Crows were again among the preseason favorites but Twitter sentiment seemed to lean toward a revamped and reloaded Duluth FC side to win the conference.
What you need to know: Minneapolis City won their second conference title in a row.
The NPSL season is short. The best analogy is to college football where every game matters, even the ones against teams that aren’t really contenders. Every conference has their own University of Illinois and it is important not to drop points against them.
The Crows did it to perfection, taking maximum points from the also-rans. With their playoff opponents Med City and Duluth unable to do the same, City required just four points from their matches against fellow title chasers and they won those in style. An 88th minute equalizer in Rochester and a brilliant 4-2 victory in Duluth were great results, but this title was won by winning the games that should have been won.
Head Coach: Matt VanBenschoten
Captain: Aaron Olson
North Conference: Champions (2nd time)
Midwest Region: Semifinals
Top Goalscorer: Will Kidd (5)
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W vs Dakota Fusion
It was not very convincing, but it was a win. The Crows were the better team and won 2-1, but play was sloppy and the Crows required an early penalty save by Matt Elder to get the three points.
W vs La Crosse Aris
It took a little while for the goals to come but otherwise the game went just as you would expect. The Crows won 5-0.
W vs Sioux Falls Thunder
Two first half goals were all it took to beat Sioux Falls for the fourth time in five games. Tim Wills scored a golazo with a chip from over 30 yards.
W at Minnesota TwinStars
If the TwinStars played with the intensity and organization against every team like they do against City they would contend for the title every year. In this game, they kept roaring back after City took the lead right until the 80th minute when a Kevin Hoof header won the game 3-2 for the Crows.
L vs Duluth FC
Duluth ended City’s 19-game conference unbeaten streak with a comeback victory in Minneapolis. It really was a great game that could have gone either way. Duluth celebrated with glee on the field, but their comeuppance was on its way.
D at Med City
Tim Wills scored a dramatic equalizer at almost the 90th minute. The 1-1 draw in Rochester was a game of two halves that also went to show that Med City were making a serious playoff bid this season.
W at La Crosse Aris
The Crows had a breather against Aris and played a lot of younger players. City won 4-0.
W at Dakota Fusion
A goal from the halfway line by Max Stiegwardt was the highlight of a 5-2 victory against a motivated but shambolic Dakota Fusion. It is hard to believe that this club made the playoffs just two years ago.
W vs Minnesota TwinStars
Another very tough derby became a coming out party for Eli Goldman. He was called up from the U23 team and volleyed in the only goal of the game.
W at Sioux Falls Thunder
Another 2-0 win for the Crows. Will Kidd scored two goals in the first half and the rest of the game became a training session. City have never lost against Sioux Falls.
W at Duluth FC
It was just like 2018: Duluth needed a win to stay in the title and playoff hunt while City could win the title with a game to spare if they won. It was also just like 2018 because Justin Oliver scored twice and the Crows comprehensively defeated Duluth 4-2 and were able to celebrate on their field, only City was celebrating another conference title.
L vs Med City
Whatever the result of this game City fans would be happy. If the Crows won they would win the conference and the Citizens Trophy and have a chance to host the playoffs, but if they lost they would still win the conference and Duluth would not make the playoffs. As it was, City lost 0-1 and knocked Duluth out of the playoffs. Also, the Med City coach was ejected early in the first half.
W vs Med City
The way the Midwest Region playoffs are structured meant that the Crows host Med City for a playoff game just three days after the season finale in Minneapolis. In a game where the result actually mattered, City were victorious 2-1. This was an intense and awesome game. Great goals from the Crows overcame great goalkeeping from Med City and a late Med City goal made for a tense ending.
L at Detroit City
Unfortunately, a lot of Crows players were not able to make the trip from Minneapolis for this game. Even some that were had their flights cancelled. The club reported that Abdallah Bah and Zuheer Al Abase couldn’t get out of MSP and so in addition to a skeleton team City lost their starting fullbacks on the day of the game. What a shame because this was the biggest game in City’s history. Despite the challenges, the Crows gave it their all and almost got a result.
It was a classic away performance from the Crows. Their game plan was to counterattack quickly to a speedy front three. Detroit City just dominated possession at home and are a very good team. A first half goal gave them the lead. The Crows had two big chances to equalize, one with Justin Oliver was fouled in the box but nothing was called and a second when Le Rouge cleared off the line.
The Crows were under a lot of pressure though and they relied on a great defensive performance from the back four and back-up goalkeeper Troy Louwagie. A second half goal by Detroit in the 72nd minute while the Crows were chasing the game ended City’s playoff run.
Overall Record: 12-4-2 (9-2-1 NPSL North)
OWTC PLAYER AWARDS
The three of us watched almost every game this season either in person or on MyCujoo and together agreed on three player awards for the season.
MVP: Jonah Garcia (CB) Consistently excellent from the beginning of the season to the very end. He played every minute of every game and personified the quiet defiance of this Crows team.
Breakout Player: Eli Goldman (ST) He stepped up from the U23s in the middles of the season and finished the season as probably the team’s most dangerous attacker.
Unsung Hero: Charlie Adams (DM) He moved into a defensive midfield role this season to replace Ian Smith and his transformation from ball-playing fullback into defensive-minded central midfielder helped solidify the team’s defense.
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 and we tried to fit in the 4-3-3 that Coach VanBenschoten played last season.
Subs (7): Tim Wills (ST/AM), Whitney Browne (ST), Isaac Friendt (AM), Ben Wexler (M), Charlie Adams (FB/DM), Trey Benhart (CB), Troy Louwagie (GK)