Aurora Beat River Light to Rise Up the Table

Minnesota Aurora FC defender Alicia Donley (2) kicks the ball at the Minnesota Aurora FC vs River Light FC match on Saturday, June 8, 2024 at TCO Stadium in Eagan, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

When River Light FC played Minnesota Aurora FC in Aurora, IL, the game ended in a 1-1 draw. On Saturday, June 8, Minnesota Aurora FC got their turn to host River Light FC in Eagan, MN. Similar to the Illinois leg, River Light scored first and Aurora answered soon after. However, this match took a different turn. Instead of ending 1-1, the second half included three more goals. Who scored these five goals? Whether you were one of the 6,053 at TCO Stadium, watched on Fox 9+ or the Fox 9 website, or missed the match entirely, Northern Lights Football is here to summarize this action-packed match.

Women of Inspiration

Around the Stadium: Women Of Inspiration Matchpresented by nVent Community Partner Groups Outside the Stadium: Women's Drum Center Our Justice Period Kits MN Jordyn Clark Foundation She Climbs Mountains Pro Choice Minnesota Women Winning Center for Victims of Torture Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center Center for Justice and Healing Through Sport Partner Activations: nVent Trustone Financial Star Tribune Minnemals Nautical Bowls Volkswagen of Inver Grove At every 2024 home game, Minnesota Aurora FC will host a sports bra drive. Bring new, unused sports bras to our drop-off point at TCO stadium. We'll donate the sports bras to our partners, and together we'll help make sure more people have access to equipment that keeps them on the field.
Courtesy of MN Aurora FC

This game was the Women of Inspiration match. A pre-game tweet stated, “Celebrating the women who lead with passion, purpose, and power.” Local Social Network Strategist Nadine Babu has worked with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Gopher sports. She posted media of the video board that welcomed other Minnesota women’s teams to the stadium: Minnesota Aurora 2, PWHL Minnesota, Menagerie Rugby Club, Twin Cities Amazons Rugby, Minnesota Roller Derby, and Team Trans Twin Cities Ice Hockey.

“My dear, when people show you who they are, why don’t you believe them?” or Starting XIs

Colette Montgomery lined up Aurora up in their typical 4-3-3 that can shift into a 4-2-3-1. For the second straight game, Alicia Donley played centerback next to Nicole Norfolk. Donley moved from forward to fullback at University of Dayton, and started the first four Aurora matches at right fullback. This switch for Donley allowed both Kelis Barton and Kacie Laurie to start at fullback. Another key benefit of Donley at centerback was Addy Weichers moving to the central midfield next to Morgan Stone. This marked only the second match for center midfield duo, but Weichers and Stone have played together in the midfield plenty on Aurora teams past.

Also for the second straight game, Cat Rapp received the start at center forward, who came in with 3 goals in 2024. Left wing Mariah Nguyen entered with four goals. Right wing Jill Bennett got her first start of 2024. At middle of it all was Katie Duong at center attacking midfielder.

River Light FC kept only Maya Nugent and Eliana Egeland in the starting lineup from last time. However, River Light used that midweek match against 6th-place RKC to rest most of their starting lineup. The River Light starting line up at TCO Stadium had nine returning starters from their weekend match against Bavarian United SC. Left fullback Sam Bodensteiner and center midfielder Gemma Gillespie were the only new starters Saturday night from a week ago.

“Do the best you can until you know better” or River Light Score First

Despite some dangerous Aurora chances close to the net, River Light’s defense held Aurora at bay early. Then in the eleventh minute, River Light’s Ella Burke sent a corner kick to the far post. Left wing Anya Gulbrandsen jumped high to head the ball into the back of the net. River Light led 1-0 in Minnesota early.

“Then when you know better, do better” or Aurora’s Answer

In the 32nd minute, Duong would send in a ball to Cat Rapp. While GK Blythe Braun saved the Cat Rapp attempt, the ball went wide to Morgan Stone who rocks the pebble into the back of the bag to tie the match 1-1. After all the Aurora acts of affection, Stone celebrates by miming setting down a golf ball and tee then driving one out of the box.

“You don’t have to think about doing the right thing. If you’re for the right thing, then you do it without thinking” or Taylor Kane’s Save

After the Aurora scored, River Light’s Devin Lynch would take on several Aurora players and send in a dangerous ball. Taylor Kane was there contending for space with a player from each team.

For much of the half, both teams struggled to pass through the compact midfield defensive blocks of the other.  This half would end 1-1.

“River Light are a really well-organized team. They really want to play through those central spaces. And so that was a lot of what we wanted to do was shut down that middle space, make them go round us the long way and then win those balls in those outside spaces. So, you know, again, the game plan worked out really well. Different personnel coming in at halftime gave us a little of injection of energy, a little bit boost of confidence, and then let’s go score some goals.” — Colette Montgomery

“Make every effort to change things you do not like” or Substitutions

At the start of the second half, River Light subbed on midfielder Alexandra Tetteh for Gillespie and goalkeeper Bella Schopp for Braun. Aurora made three changes: midfielder Sofia Bush for Stone, right wing Saige Wimes for Bennett, and Yao Zhou for fullback Barton. Midfielder Zhou pushed Weichers back to centerback and Donley slid over to right fullback.

“I’ve never seen this one before,” a goal like Duong’s

Early in the second half, Cat Rapp square the ball to Katie Duong who booted the ball for a banger from 27 yards out.

Duong commented on balancing her role to making teammates dangerous while being dangerous herself: “Especially playing the 10 a little bit more of an attacking role for Aurora, I’ve been trying to focus on being dangerous and varying the ways I’m attacking around goal. I think this front line and this midfield is so much fun to play with, and I have so much fun combining with these players.”

“I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of”

Later, Aurora would gain inroads into the box again. Despite Aurora’s attack with deliberate daggers, River Light defend deftly by discharging all aggressions of Aurora’s assailants.

Saige Wimes’ header or “You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

At the 69th minute, both teams made additional substitutions. Aurora’s Julia Sattler came on for fellow centerback Nicole Norfolk. River Light subbed in Sophia Skoubis for Egeland and Ellen Persson for Burke. Around the 76th minute, Aurora would earn a corner kick. Katie Duong’s service to the far side looked to be going out for a River Light goal kick. Alicia Donley kept the ball in play and sent it back across the goal mouth. Saige Wimes lept up and headed the ball. The ball pinballed into the net off the goalkeeper’s shoulder and the back of a defender. Aurora led 3-1.

Immediate after the goal, Aurora would sub in Tess Werts for Nguyen and Rami Rapp for her triplet sister Cat. River Light put in Victoria Adams for fellow defender Sam Bodensteiner.

Minnesota Aurora FC forward Saige Wimes (24) scores Aurora’s winning goal off a header at the Minnesota Aurora FC vs River Light FC match on Saturday, June 8, 2024 at TCO Stadium in Eagan, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Lake / Lake Photography)

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Rami would soon threaten on the right side. A River Light defender would trip Rami in the corner of the 18-yard box. It was unclear if the defender poked the ball away or not. As Equal Time Soccer pointed out: it should have been a penalty or a corner kick for Aurora. Instead the referees awarded River Light with a goal kick.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

In the 85th minute, River Light would make their last two substitutions (of seven allowed): Evyn Schokora for goal scorer Gulbrandsen and Shayna Da SIlva for Nugent. Those substitutions had an immediate affect. Less than three minutes later, River Light connected seven passes up the field. GK sub Bella Schopp sent a long goal kick up the middle. Alex Tetteh came back towards the ball and offloaded to Olivia Duray, who one-touched the ball wide right to centerback Rachel Kutella. Kutella passed up the line to Sophia Skoubis. Skoubis hit Kutella back on quick diagonal run. Kutella passed to a W I D E  O P E N Evyn Schokora, scored.

Katie Duong would earn “Play of the Game” for her second half banger. However, at 1:42:15 of this Fox 9+ video, River Light can claim to the best team goal of the night. Two other River Light attackers were also near the net with Donely the only Aurora player back to help Taylor Kane.

When the final whistle blew, River Light scored first and last. However, this isn’t pickup soccer. Last goal doesn’t win. Aurora scored three goals and earn three points.

USL W League, Heartland Division Standings – “Does it come as a surprise?”

Aurora was in second place in the Heartland Division heading into this match; River Light was close behind in third. After Bavarian United SC beat Chicago City SC on Saturday, River Light would bounce back to Rochester FC on Monday.

Tuesday results featured two rivalry matches. Chicago City would lose again, this time at home to crosstown rival Chicago Dutch Lions FC. Bavarian beat their Milwaukee rival RKC Third Coast.

The two Thursday matches include four of the top five teams in the division. Aurora heads south on US Highway 52 to Rochester FC. River Light FC in fourth host Bavarian United in second place.

It’s tight up at the top. How will this look after Thursday? Stay tuned to Northern Lights Football and find out.