As the Crows fly into their fifth season, it’s time to look back at some of the great players whose performances and personality have elevated themselves to legendary status.
What is a legend?
Legend is about memory, and intertwining the memory of a specific player with a specific club. Memory is born from achievement, like being influential in winning a title or making the most club appearances. Eric Cantona will always be revered at Manchester United for his role in winning the title. Ryan Giggs is a legend because of his longevity.
When you think of legends you think about them tied to their club, even in cases like Cantona who played for other clubs. He’s a Manchester United legend. He exists in the memory somehow only in United red.
Who exists in the memory somehow only wearing City pink?
Isaac “Goose” Friendt
When we started following the club in 2017, he was the cult hero. A young, dynamic attacking player who was fearless on the dribble. He also scored bangers.
He is the type of player that fans sing about when they sing “He’s one of our own.” He was. He started with the Crows as a teenager just about to go to college and he crushed it. Whenever he had the ball it seemed like something special could happen. For a while, he was the club’s all-time leading scorer. The fans loved him. I loved screaming “Goooooose”. He loved the fans.
He was injured in the second half of the 2018 home opener against Med City and missed the rest of the season, so his career stats don’t tell the whole story. It is easy to imagine the damage he would have done as an attacker in the 2018 team that scored the most goals in the entire NPSL.
|2016, 2017, 2018||24||7||3||1,915|
He was a legend before his terrible injury. What happened to him is something you wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it hasn’t brought him down. It’s inspirational watching him come back from the injury and he cemented his legendary status by joining the club as a coach during his recovery, and it’s great to see players continue with the Crows after their playing days are done.
When he first started with the club he flew under the radar.
Always, every season, Will Kidd has come up big when it counted most. In 2016, he scored a late, late equalizer at Cedar Rapids. In 2017, he turned the game against VSLT around with his diving header. In 2018, he was unplayable on the wing as a scorer and as a provider, like when he got the assist on the goal that beat VSLT 2-1. In 2019, he was the team’s top scorer.
|2016, 2017, 2018, 2019||52||16||10||3,868|
He is currently the club’s all-time leading scorer, and he got there by delivering day in and day out. He is basically the Energizer Bunny and simply won’t stop racing up and down the wing.
2018 was his breakout season. It seemed like the stereotypical nice Midwestern guy had added some steel to his game and the goals and assists followed. It was no surprise that he was voted All-Conference in 2018 and 2019 and even less of a surprise that the fans showed him how much they love him.
Marty Party! *clap, clap, clapclapclap* Marty Party! *clap, clap, clapclapclap* Marty Party! *clap, clap, clapclapclap*
Every time Martin Browne lines up a free kick the fans get ready to party. In 2017, they partied all the time because Browne was unstoppable. Yes, he was scoring free kicks for fun.
He is so much more than a free kick specialist though. He pulled the strings in the middle of the park, and his touch, vision, and passing were enough to make you drool. Sometimes he was so good on the ball it was like watching someone play FIFA. It was almost too perfect. He was so good in 2017 that he was called up for the Liberia national team, though he was never capped.
|2017, 2018, 2019||31||10||8||2,230|
He might be the most iconic Crow because, as 2017 defined the club for so many fans including us, he was the big player. He was the talisman. He was a player who was so easy to fall in love in with it’s no wonder Kamp Seedorf did two murals of him.
He remained a force in 2018. His foot skills meant that it was almost impossible to win the ball from him, and in tight spaces he could find a pass, dribble free, or get space for a shot. His goal against Dakota Fusion was worth double the price of admission.
He still had the touch in 2019 and the fans were still Marty Partying. You know you’re a legend when the fans sing songs about you.
Legends drive their teams to titles. Both seasons Stiegwardt has played for the Crows in the NPSL they have won the conference. Legends dominate competition. In 2018, he was the best player in the entire conference and selected as one of the best 11 players in the entire NPSL. Legends also make history. He has made club history. The penalty he scored against Croatian Eagles was the winner of the first game the Crows ever won, back in 2016.
|2016, 2018, 2019||24||9||5||1,913|
It was 2018 that made Stiegwardt a legend. He was an unstoppable force, as the accolades show. The center midfielder had it all: passing range, shooting power, and willingness to get in the tackle. He was a mix of box-to-box Frank Lampard and orchestrator Andrea Pirlo. It seemed like every game he did something memorable, starting with his chip of the Dakota Fusion goalkeeper in the first home game.
He is another player who started playing with the Crows in 2016 when he was a teenager. That group is turning into a special one, both for their individual successes and what they achieved as a team. The fact that they keep coming back to the hometown club makes the bond with the fans even stronger. He is one of us!
Goalkeepers don’t get the recognition they deserve.
It might be because they are so isolated on the field and so irregularly involved in anything but disaster. Even the greatest saves pale in comparison to an average mistake when you’re the man between the sticks.
Yet, has any team succeeded without an exceptional netminder? Okay, maybe Brazil with Claudio Taffarel, but think about Liverpool recently. Would they have lost to Real Madrid with Alisson in goal instead of Loris F-ing Karius?! Okay, maybe. But not like that. Not with a shot that squirmed through his hands. Goalkeepers may not win you games but they win you games.
Matt Elder just keeps winning games and trophies for the Crows.
He has saved two of the three penalties that Duluth has taken against him, which is legendary in its own right. He was the Premier League of America top goalkeeper. He has won two conference titles.
Importantly, he is an emotional leader of the club. Every game we seen him bellowing to his teammates, urging them on and encouraging them. Plus, the fans love him.
Legend is a really high bar to clear.
There is a level of legendary that hinges on one or two incredible performances. Think of Carlos Tevez saving West Ham from relegation. Or maybe Giovanni van Bronckhorst scoring a banger for Holland to get them to the World Cup final. Those performances will live forever in fan’s memories, even if neither player reaches a pantheon that includes Bobby Moore and Johan Cruyff, respectively.
So what are the standout performances for Minneapolis City?
Justin Oliver VS DULUTH
Justin Oliver is on his way to legend status.
He has not played in as many games or logged as many minutes as other players, but whenever he is on the field he makes things happen. His stats are insanely efficient.
It is his performances against Duluth that stand out. In aggregate, he has played against the BlueGreens three times and scored five goals. He’s their kryptonite. The fans love him for it.
His most standout performance was in the title clincher in 2018 because of the firsts: first time to beat Duluth and first time to win the conference. He was a thorn in Duluth’s side the entire game, buzzing around like a crazed hornet up and down the wing. He scored the second goal. Then, after Duluth had pulled one back to make it 2-1 he plunged the knife in and scored the third.
It turned out to be the winning the goal. Though he would score a brace again in the 2019 title clincher at Duluth, you always remember your first.
Brandon Bye VS Sioux Falls
Now he plays for the New England Revolution, but in the summer of 2017 Brandon Bye lit up the Crows corner of Minneapolis.
The statistics paint an impressive picture on their own: he scored, assisted, and architected the three Crows goals.
There was something about his performance that went beyond the mere numbers. He was a man among boys that game. Bigger, faster, stronger. He was a step ahead physically and mentally as well. The ball found him and stuck to him, at least when it wasn’t stuck in the back of the net.
Even though Sioux Falls ended up man marking him with two players at the end, he proved unstoppable.
Great players take over games. Brandon Bye took over that one.
Ben Wexler VS MILWAUKEE BAVARIANS
In 2016 Ben Wexler was selected to the Premier League of America team of the year.
He continued to contribute over the next four years. His name was always in the Crows squads for the NPSL and the U.S. Open Cup, and the quick attacking midfielder was fun to watch on the ball. He has taken the role of senior leader or mentor in the team and matters enough to the club that he had a mural made.
To hear those that were there tell it though, his finest moment came in the club’s first game. They traveled to Milwaukee to play Bavarian SC. At the time, the Bavarians were in the middle of three straight trips to the USASA National Amateur Cup final so the Crows were getting started by only facing one of the best amateur teams in the entire country.
The club has told the story of how Wexler and forward Andy Lorei shaved their facial hair in ridiculous ways to loosen the tension of the first game. What is less well known is how Wexler made the midfield his own in that game. While it ended 0-0 so there are no gaudy stats that mark this standout performance he was the best player in the midfield engine room in a game where the Crows drew away against one the best teams in America.