This season will be the fifth anniversary season of Minneapolis City. That is a really long time in American soccer years and a good time to take a look back.
The Crows have won the NPSL North Conference two out of the last three years. They went undefeated in the conference for an entire season. They are the conference’s top scorers and just two goals off of the best defense. The total numbers are very impressive.
|Minneapolis City SC||40||27||7||6||107||41||87|
|Med City FC||40||21||8||11||91||39||73|
|Sioux Falls Thunder||40||9||24||7||62||91||33|
|La Crosse Aris||40||2||36||2||31||177||8|
2016: GETTING STARTED
Every so often the club posts photos from the 2016 season. Having not been there, it is hard to connect the dots between then and now. Even just the patchy grass field at South High compared to Edor Nelson shows how far the club has come.
On the field, the season started very well. The Crows went to Milwaukee for their first competitive game and earned a deserved 0-0 draw against Bavarian SC, a club that was in the middle of three straight runs to the USASA Amateur Cup final and, at that time, simply was not dropping points to anyone. A first home game and first home victory quickly followed and, as the season went on, results flattened and City finished third behind Bavarians and the professional indoor team Cedar Rapids Rampage.
Big impacts were made by players who would become familiar to fans over the following years, with Abdallah Bah, Matt Elder, and Ben Wexler earning All-League honors.
Other notable players who were with the club in its inaugural season include Will Kidd, Max Stiegwardt, Aaron Olson, and Isaac Friendt.
|Cedar Rapids Rampage United||10||5||4||1||18||10||19|
|Minneapolis City SC||10||3||4||3||15||15||13|
|Minnesota United FC Reserves||10||2||4||4||13||17||10|
While the final results and finish outside the playoff places were disappointing coming after the club’s explosive start to the season, given the strength of the conference it was a good finish and a decent year in the end.
There was also history to be made. City entered the U.S. Open Cup in the qualifying rounds and because of withdrawals and the number of entries that year, just had to beat Oakland County FC from Michigan to win entry into the tournament first round. That they did, with a dramatic 2-1 win in extra time. It meant that City were the first non-pro team to qualify for the tournament.
Head Coach: Keith Kiecker
Captain: Trey Benhart
PLA West Conference: Third Place
U.S. Open Cup: First Round (Disqualified)
OWTC MVP: Abdallah Bah
2017: NEW LEAGUE LET DOWN
City joined the NPSL’s new North Conference for the 2017 season and they got kicked out of the U.S. Open Cup for their efforts. That was just a sign of things to come in a desperately disappointing season for the Crows. It seemed that everything that could have gone wrong did.
The Crows were the favorite going into the season. A lot of that had to do with the club’s prominence and with signings like former MNUFCer Brian Kallman. It was not undeserved though and a battling come from behind victory of VSLT FC in St Paul on the opening weekend seemed to confirm it.
However, the draw earned by a physical and cynical Duluth FC team in the home opener set a tone for the season that the Crows couldn’t match. The comparison with Duluth is meaningful because, where the BlueGreens had that little something extra the Crows seemed to lack it. Sometimes it was luck, sometimes it was belief, but it was always something and City finished a disappointing third.
Despite the let down of finishing outside of the playoff spots, the season had a lot of fun moments and memories. Edor Nelson Field is a fantastic place to watch soccer and the noise and energy inside the stadium was incredible, and is the reason we became City til we die. There were some great moments too. Isaac “Goose” Friendt had a season to remember. You always believed Martin Browne would score when he took a free kick. The Crows showed life at the end and knocked Med City out of the playoffs on the last day. We even got to see future MLSer Brandon Bye involved in every goal against Sioux Falls.
|Dakota Fusion FC||14||9||5||0||37||27||10||27||1.93|
|Minneapolis City SC||14||8||5||1||31||16||15||25||1.79|
|Rochester Med City FC||14||7||3||4||23||16||7||25||1.79|
|Viejos Son Los Trapos FC||14||7||5||2||37||24||13||23||1.64|
|Minnesota TwinStars FC||14||5||7||2||33||33||0||17||1.21|
|Sioux Falls Thunder FC||14||3||7||4||22||31||−9||13||0.93|
|LC Aris FC||14||0||13||1||11||71||−60||1||0.07|
It says a lot that the club’s most disappointing season ended just three points short of the title and two points short of the playoffs, but close is still a let down.
Unfortunately, close also defined City’s Open Cup qualifying run. It started with Santa Fe Wanderers from Kansas City withdrawing. It continued with an extra time victory of Aurora Borealis from Chicago. It ended in the snow in Rochester, NY when the Crows were beaten 2-1 by the Rochester River Dogz when a win would have gotten them into the tournament first round.
Head Coach: Adam Pribyl
Captain: Matt Elder
North Conference: Third Place
U.S. Open Cup: Third Qualifying Round
OWTC MVP: Isaac Friendt
Construction at Edor Nelson meant that the Crows flew up to Osseo for the season and the change of scenery worked like a charm as City didn’t lose a game in the conference on the way to the title.
The season didn’t actually start well. The Crows stumbled in Sioux Falls on the opening weekend, drawing 1-1, but fought back to beat Med City 3-2 in the first game at Osseo and then blasted Dakota Fusion in the next game with a hat trick from Whitney Browne, a goal of the season candidate from Martin Browne, and another goal of the season candidate from Max Stiegwardt.
There were so many highlights this season that it is hard to pick out just a few.
The moment where it was clear that City were actually gunning for the title came in the away game against VSLT. The Sky Blues had beaten reigning champions Duluth 1-0 and coming into the game had the best defense in the country. City had drawn with Duluth away but coming into the game at 2-0-2 meant they had something to prove. The Crows scored four goals in the first half and won the game 5-1. They proved their credentials there! It was a great result in front of a fun and rowdy crowd.
The Crows embarrassingly drew with Aris 0-0, but that set-up a second highlight: the visit of VSLT to Osseo. Both clubs were in the championship and the playoff hunt. The Crows were in unconvincing form. The Sky Blues were rolling again. The match was really even and competitive. Then Tim Wills scored a crazy goal in the first half that bounced in the goal and then back out. Then VSLT had a goal somehow cleared off the line by Max Kent. VSLT were able to equalize early in the second half. Then with just minutes remaining Juan Louis scored a kung-fu kick volley from a Will Kidd pass and the Crows won 2-1 to set-up the biggest highlight.
The last home match of the season was against Duluth FC. The math was simple. Win, and the Crows would win the title. They won. Abdallah Bah scored a banger of a goal. Justin Oliver scored. Matt Elder saved a penalty in first half injury time. Then Duluth scored just after the re-start. Then Justin Oliver scored his second. Duluth scored again with 20 minutes remaining. The Crows were not done and they scored again too, winning 4-2 and clinching the title. The fans singing with the players after the game was a great memory.
|Minneapolis City SC||14||10||0||4||46||14||32||34||2.43|
|Viejos Son Los Trapos FC||14||7||5||2||28||16||12||23||1.64|
|Med City FC||14||6||4||4||30||12||18||22||1.57|
|Minnesota TwinStars FC||14||6||5||3||32||25||7||21||1.50|
|Dakota Fusion FC||14||4||7||3||22||48||−26||15||1.07|
|Sioux Falls Thunder FC||14||4||9||1||25||34||−9||13||0.93|
|La Crosse Aris FC||14||0||13||1||10||60||−50||1||0.07|
The playoffs did not go well. It was going to be a challenge because colleges had recalled City’s Division 1 players, tearing out the team’s central midfield. In the end, Duluth won 2-1 in extra time on a very debatable penalty decision and, before that, had played up a man for twenty minutes due to an issue with Abdallah Bah’s nose ring. That did not take away from a fantastic regular season though. This was a very special year.
Head Coach: Adam Pribyl
Captain: Aaron Olson
North Conference: Champions
Playoffs: Midwest Semifinal
U.S. Open Cup: DNE
OWTC MVP: Max Stiegwardt
2019: BACK STRONGER
Though the Crows eventually had their conference unbeaten streak snapped at 19, the club’s return to Edor Nelson Field in Minneapolis was marked with another conference championship.
Luka wrote a detailed Year In Review piece, so this is a short overview.
Under new head coach Matt VanBenschoten, the Crows showed an uncanny ability to comfortably beat all of the teams that they needed to beat and, when they had to raise their game, to raise it. The 90th minute equalizer away at Med City was an incredible relief and showed the grit this team had. It was the same story with the 1-0 win against TwinStars. When nothing seemed to be working for the Crows on comes U23 kid Eli Goldman to score the winner. It’s a mark of champions to get those contributions.
The highlight was surely the 4-2 win in Duluth to win the conference. For the second season in a row the Crows faced the BlueGreens in the penultimate game with the title on the line and for the second season in a row the Crows won the game 4-2 to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, the MyCujoo stream was so bad that we missed most of the game and have to rely on the result itself for the great memory.
With nothing to play for, the Crows dropped the last regular season game to Med City 1-0 and then had to play them in the playoffs just a few days later where they took care of business in a game that mattered and won 2-1.
The offense continued to perform well, but it was new centerback Jonah Garcia who stole the show as he lifted a patchwork defense that was rocked by the injury to Max Kent early in the season.
|Minneapolis City SC||12||9||2||1||30||11||19||28||2.33|
|Med City FC||12||8||1||3||28||11||17||27||2.25|
|Minnesota TwinStars FC||12||6||5||1||27||20||7||19||1.58|
|Sioux Falls Thunder FC||12||2||8||2||15||25||−10||8||0.67|
|Dakota Fusion FC||12||2||9||1||15||39||−24||7||0.58|
|La Crosse Aris FC||12||2||10||0||10||46||−36||6||0.50|
Yet again, the Crows went into the Midwest Semifinal without a full strength team. Waiting for them was Detroit City. Le Rouge were playing their last NPSL games before becoming fully professional. Though they lost in the end, the Crows put in a great performance in the Motor City.
The club has to wait until January to know for sure if it will compete in the U.S. Open Cup, but indications are that it will.
Head Coach: Matt VanBenschoten
Captain: Aaron Olson
North Conference: Champions
Playoffs: Midwest Semifinal
U.S. Open Cup: TBD
OWTC MVP: Jonah Garcia
DIGGING INTO THE NUMBERS
It is interesting just how consistent the clubs have been over the years. Every single club bar one has finished within a narrow points band across the years and that has translated to where they have finished in the table as well.
Take Duluth FC. In three seasons their points totals have been: 28, 28, 26. They have never finished lower than third.
Minneapolis City also has never finished lower than third but has seen wider variance in total points, mainly because the 2018 season was such an outlier: 25, 34, 28.
Med City is another example that illustrates the point, with a points total that has stayed broadly consistent (25, 22, 27) and finishes in the final table that have as well (4th, 4th, 2nd).
It is a small sample size, but similar to how the Premier League has mentally set 40 points as the magic number to stay in the league the NPSL North has 28 points as the magic number to win the league. The exception even proves the rule because just like West Ham were relegated with 42 points in 2002-03, Duluth finished second with 28 points in 2018.
This is unlikely to be true in 2019 because there are only six teams in the conference. Keep an eye on this magic number nonetheless.
The only standout points swing belongs to Dakota Fusion (27, 15, 7). They rode the momentum established by the now folded FC Fargo to a playoff spot in 2017, but it has been all downhill from there. They finished 2019 a full 20 points worse off than they were their first season in the NPSL. Ouch.