MN Aurora Score Four on the Road, Take Three Points from Chicago Dutch Lions

In their first road match of 2023, Minnesota Aurora out classed Chicago Dutch Lions at a fitting location, Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois, shutting out their hosts 4-0 and taking the top spot in the division with a game in hand.

Head coach Nicole Lukic made only one change from Wednesday’s opener, slotting Jelena Zbiljic in on the right wing for Sophie French, placing all four goalscorers from Wednesday in the XI. The Lions had one more game under their belts going into Saturday but with mixed results, opening the season with a 2-1 win over RKC and a 1-0 loss to Chicago City. Their two goalscorers from that opening match, Katrina Barthelt and Anna Stiffler, earned another start against Minnesota, but neither could overcome Aurora’s stingy defense. Goalkeeper Caitlin Richards, who had conceded only two goals in two games, made some solid saves on the night but could not hold off a tested Aurora press. The Aurora Way continues in Year Two.

Saturday’s goals were not as fast and furious as Wednesday’s but they are just as stunning. Kennedy Faulknor got it started in the 21st minute with a rocket from 35 yards out, burying a postage stamp goal past a leaping Richards.

“Their defense was dropping off, and I had a lot of space,” said center back Kennedy Faulknor. “I thought I’d try to take the shot, and it went in!”

Following the goal, both sides spent far more time working the midfield, with Chicago becoming more physical and Aurora stretching their press a bit rather than camping out in the final third. The second goal came in the 38th when Mariah Nguyen, who was a thorn in the side of CDL’s midfield, sprinted down the wing and crossed a ball into the box. Maya Hansen was there for the finish, putting Aurora up 2-0. She would do again in the 43rd, after receiving a ball picked out of CDL’s midfield by Cat Rapp, and making a central run on goal and going one on one with Richards, forcing the keeper to commit well off her line before sending the ball past her. It was Hansen’s third goal of the season and Aurora’s third of the night.

The second half was chippy but more even in terms of possession. Aurora’s back line did well to prevent Chicago from getting into shooting positions, let alone scoring positions, but they did have to work a little to keep the clean sheet. The best opportunity for the hosts came from a corner, but even that was not incredibly threatening. Mariah Nguyen, the work horse of the left wing, finally got a goal of her own in the 89th minute, putting a bow on the shutout result with a leaping half volley, ending the night 4-0.

The result sees Aurora leapfrog Chicago City SC to first place in the Heartland Division, with identical records aside from a slim margin in goals scored — Aurora has 9, CCSC 8. Minnesota Aurora will return home to host RKC at TCO Stadium on Wednesday, May 31, at 7:00 PM CST.