NPSL Spotlight: Sioux Falls Thunder v Joy Athletic Club

Tim Abbott

Spotlight Match: Sioux Falls Thunder 1-1 Joy Athletic Club

Owen Salzwedel opened the scoring for Joy Athletic Club in the 19th minute, but the Goats were unable to hold off Sioux Falls, with the Thunder equalizer coming courtesy of Natinael Ayalew in the 79th minute.

Other Results:

Wednesday:

Duluth FC 0-0 Dakota Fusion FC

Saturday:

Dakota Fusion FC 3-1 Duluth FC

After a relatively even opening ten minutes, close refereeing dominated the opening exchanges before a goalkeeping error by Vicent Sanchis gifted the ball to Edouard Nys, who slotted it calmly past him for a Duluth lead in the 20th minute. Fusion’s first real chance came in the 35th minute, deflected wide by a defender and the subsequent corner went wide. 

The second half saw multiple chances for Duluth but the BlueGreens were unable to capitalise. Then in the 70th minute, the hosts began to string together more close possession in the Duluth penalty area. Nonetheless, the equalizer took a moment of class by Inchun Han, who dribbled in from the right wing and smashed a shot past the previously imperious Zeke Foltz’s far post. 

Fusion went ahead when a free kick was lobbed into the area and Foltz was beaten to a header by Gael Gonzalez, with the clock barely in the 90th minute. 

Duluth mounted a counter offensive, but a couple of corners were wayward and in the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of the game, a quick breakaway down the Fusion left was squared for a tap-in by Ryosuke Miyata. 

Siouxland United 2-1 Minnesota TwinStars FC

The Outlaws secured another win courtesy of goals from Magloire Makila and Nick Walker. TwinStars tally came from Chigozie Eneje.

Joy Athletic Club 3-2 Minnesota Blizzard

A back-and-forth match ends in favor of the hosts, with goals from Eric Riera, Grant Luce and Zinedine Kroeten. Blizzard scored through a brace from John-Terry Broughton

Coming Up:

Monday:

Minnesota Blizzard FC v Sioux Falls Thunder FC

Wednesday:

Siouxland United FC v Dakota Fusion FC

Minnesota TwinStars FC v Duluth FC

Saturday:

Sioux Falls Thunder v Duluth FC

Minnesota TwinStars FC v Siouxland United FC

Dakota Fusion FC v Joy Athletic Club


USL League Two Spotlight: Minneapolis City SC v St Croix Legends

Tim Abbott

Nathan Donovan proved to be the decisive factor in a combative Twin Cities derby, scoring in the 15th and 52nd minute and laying on the assist for the Legends’ third goal in the 90th minute from Dylan Olson, at which point the Crows had been reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of Max Kent for a second bookable offense in the 80th minute.

May 24, 2024In USL League Two

Other Scores:

Rochester FC 1-4 Bavarian United

 


UPSL Women's Spotlight: MN TwinStars v MN Aurora 2

Spotlight Match – Minnesota TwinStars FC 1-2 Minnesota Aurora FC

Minnesota Aurora’s new reserve squad opened play on the road at Minnesota TwinStars, who have had a women’s side intermittently throughout their history but who are also new to the Women’s division of UPSL.

After a fairly even opening few minutes, with no clear chances for either side, it was Karlee Torisk who broke the deadlock with an audacious chip of the TwinStars goalkeeper from 25 yards out. 

The home side hit the side netting from a corner in the 37th minute but it was the closest they would come in the first half.  Five minutes later, Molly Knoblauch swept a free kick in from 20 yards out on the right wing and Mandy Elton blasted home from the middle of the box.

TwinStars scored their first goal of the season, in the 75th minute as Mikala Bocan beat a defender to a long free kick from midfield to flick past the Aurora keeper from the penalty spot with her head. 

Other Results This Weekend

NOSC Blast 7-0 Skills FC

Berit J Parten notched four goals as Blast ran riot. Jessica M Eischens and Hannah L Kvant also scored from open play and Evie Birk from the penalty spot.

Vlora FC 0-3 Tonka Fusion Elite 2

Abby Missman scored twice and Ella Wade once for the visitors.

Northern Tide FC 3-2 St Croix Legacy II

Ana Munyon and Julie Bergan scored for NTFC. Ariana Green and Preslee I Nepote scored for Legacy.

Granite City FC 3-3 Superior City FC

Two goals by Anna Tobias and one from Gwendolyn Lilly for Superior City were met by two goals from Chloe Voss and one from Sophia Haase.


NPSL Round Up: Week 1

Wednesday:

Duluth FC 3-0 Joy Athletic Club

Duluth FC's Charlie Wood had a couple of good chances with 5 mins on the clock, but the crosses in from the left were missed. Two corners back to back eventually resulted in an easy catch for the Joy keeper. Joy's best early chance was a turnover by Jamie Colvill in his area in the tenth minute. Limmer forced a save in the 12th minute. The breakthrough came in the twenty-fifth minute, as Liam Pritchard stole the ball in midfield and played in last season's club-leading goalscorer Tyler Limmer. The initial shot was stopped by the trailing foot of Joy's keeper Oscar Herrera but Limmer picked up the rebound. BlueGreens' Nathan Porter missed from point-blank in the thirty-third minute. Joy's Dinielsen Martinez received a straight red card in the forty-fifth minute for a confrontation with Colvill, who received a yellow card. Felipe Santos made it 2-0 on a penalty kick, after he himself was taken down in the eighty-third minute. Limmer scored his second, and Duluth's third, tapping in a pass from Manny Morales in the eighty-ninth minute.

Saturday:

Duluth FC 2-1 Siouxland United FC

Duluth FC win a wild one on a 65th minute winner from Myles Edmondson. Charlie Wood opened the scoring for the BlueGreens in the 47th minute but the visitors answered right back, their first ever goal, through Flynn Faulkner. In the 62nd minute, Rory Doyle was sent off, reducing the hosts to ten men, but the numerical disadvantage became a scoreboard advantage. SUX saw their own red card, to Hibiki Mizutani, in the 84th minute.

Dakota Fusion FC 4-0 Minnesota Blizzard FC

The brand new Blizzard, fresh from a narrow defeat in their opening game against TwinStars, met a Fusion side who have retooled under a new coach and the departure of league-leading goalscorer Yu Tsukanome to MLS Next Pro side Tacoma Defiance. It was the hosts who would have the bulk of possession and the most threatening chances.

Within the opening three minutes, Fusion had pinned Blizzard in their own half and the first chance came soon after, with Toshiki Makimoto on the front foot - a recurring theme in a busy game for the man from Hiroshima. 

Blizzard's first chance came on a long free kick into the Fusion penalty area from midfield, eventually cleared for a goalkick after a scramble, but only a minute later, Alberto Romano Sanchez made it 1-0 Fusion from a Makimoto assist in the 12th minute. 

Chances continued to come for the hosts as Blizzard defenders, and goalkeeper Shae Wirt, blocked the way to goal until the 27th minute, when Makimoto drove in from the left and Lucas Peruzo slotted home for 2-0. With more pressure from Fusion to finish the first half, it could have been a more emphatic scoreline if it weren't for shots over the crossbar and so the first half ended with the score only 2-0. 

Four minutes after the break, Makimoto himself made it 3-0, with the Fusion high press forcing a turnover before he slotted it past Wirt from close range.

It was the 65th minute before Blizzard had a sustained period of possession, down their left, but they could not threaten the Fusion goal. The home side yet again threatened Wirt's goal in the 76th minute, but a curled shot rose just past the angle of post and bar. It would be academic as half time substitute Kairi Saito blasted one low past Wirt in the 78th minute for a 4-0 scoreline. There would be further shots on target but the game finished as a comfortable home win.  

Coming Up:

Wednesday

Sioux Falls Thunder FC v Joy St Louis Park

Duluth FC v Dakota Fusion FC

Saturday:

Siouxland United FC v Minnesota TwinStars FC

Dakota Fusion FC v Duluth FC

Joy St Louis Park v Minnesota Blizzard FC


UPSL Men's Round Up: Week 3

Saturday

Worthington Community FC 0-6 Superior City FC

The Navy rolled into the home of 2-0-0 WCFC and left with all three points courtesy of a devastating display of attacking. Ryan Tomsche scored twice and David Lopez Perez, Henrico Zena, Siji Gonzalez and Bruce Boldt all claimed solo tallies.

St Paul Blackhawks 2-2 Mpls City U21

Mikaelle Daniel and Sam W Kaeding scored for the Young Crows. Liam K Hafenbrack and Samuel C Hoyt scored for the Hawks.

18x26 Academy 1-2 Vlora FC

Vlora's goals were scored by Suad Suljic and Franklin P. Schwendimann. 18x26 returned with a goal by Mubashir A Nour.

Austin Villa 7-1 Granite City FC

Villa saw a hat trick by Jose Valladares and single goals by Lucas Monteiro, Sergio Traitel, Julio Hernandez and Luis Armando Lofego. Granite City could only muster one goal in response, from Eli B De Jongh.

Sunday Spotlight Match

St Croix Legends II 3-2 FC Minneapolis

St Croix Legends II (in the black) contest a ball with FC Minneapolis during their match at Pony Stadium in Stillwater, Minnesota on Sunday, May 12 2024. Photo by Jason Morales Ortiz.

The first half saw a number of Legends corners and the ball in the net more than once, only to be ruled offside.  In the end, FC Minneapolis went down to ten men in the first half an hour and subsequently broke the deadlock in the 51st minute through Pedro Belmont.

Legends equalized at the hour mark with a scrambled effort by Porter Ball off a long throw into the penalty area. With only 10 minutes left, Luca Contestabile scored a free kick, after consultation between the referee and his assistant, to put the Legends back ahead. The Lion Kings levelled it with a screamer from the top of the box in the fourth minute of stoppage time, courtesy of Andrei Filho but there was still enough time for a last sting in the tail as Will Kidd finished, from a Contestabile corner with the stopwatch reading 90+12.

Will Kidd is congratulated by team-mates after heading in the winning goal for St Croix Legends II during their match at Pony Stadium in Stillwater, Minnesota on Sunday May 11th 2024. Photo by Jason Morales Ortiz.

 

Wednesday

Mpls City U21 5-3 St Croix Legends II

Mitchel M Munzing and Tomas S Menna scored two each and Camel Htoo got a single goal for the Crows. Gora G Gora scored twice and Carter E Thiesfeld scored a solo effort for the Legends.

FC Minneapolis 1-1 Austin Villa

Austin Villa survived a red card to claim a point on the road.

Thursday

Granite City FC 0-1 Worthington CFC

The Toros stole a late winner on an own goal.

Friday

Vlora FC 1-1 Leon FC

A strange evening in Burnsville, where a match only lasted 70 minutes due to bad weather. In between the interruptions, a match broke out, with both sides notching breakaway solo efforts. Franklin Schwendimann scored for Vlora, Medo had the reply.

Coming Up:

Saturday:

18x26 Academy v Granite City FC

Worthington Community FC v FC Minneapolis

Austin Villa FC v Minneapolis City U21

Sunday:

Leon FC v Superior City FC

St Croix Legends II v St Paul Blackhawks


NPSL Season Opener: Minnesota TwinStars v Minnesota Blizzard


Two white soccer players in black kits run either side of a black man in a white kit, who is controlling the football
During the match between Minnesota TwinStars FC and Minnesota Blizzard FC at Pride Stadium in Brooklyn Park, Minn., on Saturday, May 11, 2024.
(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)

Read more


UPSL Men's Round Up: Week 2

Spotlight Match:

Vlora FC 0-3 Worthington Community FC

It took 5 mins for either side to find a shot on target and only a minute after Vlora had their first look, Worthington really should have gone ahead with theirs as the ball was intercepted in midfield from a high press by WCFC but the shot from the top of the box sailed high and wide. The Toros continued to press high and force Vlora into defensive miscues. A long ball over the top in the 11th minute was missed by Jesus Galvan-Garcia attempting to head it back to Austin Gunkel in the Vlora net, and the Worthington shot was just fractionally wide. In the 18th minute, a snapped header by Robert Cooper from close range was plucked out of the air by Worthington keeper Ricardo Maldonado. A free kick in the 23rd minute was a good chance for Vlora, claimed by Maldonado.

The break through came only two minutes later as Worthington made a strong diagonal pass from right to left which was slide tackled out for a corner. Chris Cerda's delivery was whipped in from the left and Miguel Perdomo rose to nod it home.

Worthington Community Football Club #9 Miguel Perdomo opens the score for WCFC during the Vlora Football Club v Worthington Community Football Club match on Sunday, May 5, 2024 at Bob Pates Stadium in Burnsville, Minnesota. (Photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)
Red shirted soccer player with arms aloft in frustration. White shirted player center-frame pointing to the right
Worthington CFC's #9 Miguel Perdomo points to #3 Chris Cerda who assisted the first goal through a corner kick during the Vlora Football Club v Worthington Community Football Club match on Saturday, May 5, 2024 at Bob Pates Stadium in Burnsville, Minnesota. (Photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)

Only one minute after scoring their first, another WCFC counter attack led to a shot wide from the top of the box.  Vlora returned fire up the other end, a shot off a corner was deflected out for another corner, a sequence repeated almost exactly a second successive time but while Vlora maintained possession, it could not threaten the goal again.

The second goal came after a scrappy passage of play where the ball was ineffectively cleared a number of times before falling to Juani Mackrey, who swept it home from close range with half an hour gone.

Mackrey netted his second and Worthington's third when after a period of back and forth play, a cross was driven in from the right wing by Cerda and tapped in by Mackrey in the 39th minute.

A white shirted player standing between doubled-up red shirted defenders points in celebration.
Worthington CFC #19 Juani Mackrey points to #3 Chris Cerda after scoring off his pass during the Vlora Football Club v Worthington Community Football Club match on Saturday, May 5, 2024 at Bob Pates Stadium in Burnsville, Minnesota. (Photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)

The second half saw neither side firing on all cylinders as it took 15 minutes for either side to muster a further corner and Vlora saw their best chance of the second half go begging as a corner was whipped in from the right but missed everyone's head and was claimed in a scrum by Maldonado. Worthington's own corner from their right was comfortable for Gunkel.

Vlora managed to hit a shot off the gridiron crossbar and saw another shot deflected over, with a third shot just wide in the 75th minute. Esteban Badillo applied some pressure of his own for the home side but his shot was wide. As the home side pressed forward, a ball was lofted in in the 86th minute for Vlora, but another header went wide. Ortega had a strong shot on the Worthington goal in stoppage time, but it was secured by the goalie.

Vlora FC fall to 0-2 on the young season, with their visitors ascending to 2-0.

 

Worthington CFC #19 Juani Mackrey celebrates with #21 Anton Cordes and #20 Alex Ruiz Garcia during the Vlora Football Club v Worthington Community Football Club match on Saturday, May 5, 2024 at Bob Pates Stadium in Burnsville, Minnesota. (Photo by Jason Morales Ortiz)

Other Results:

Sunday:

Superior City FC 4-1 Austin Villa

Bryce Boldt opened the scoring for the Navy in the 5th minute, Austin Villa equalized but Boldt puts the home team back ahead soon after. Ryan Tomsche made it 3-1 in stoppage time and the scoring was completed by Mally Lumsden in the 84th minute.

Granite City FC 0-9 St Croix Legends II

The Legends put up a touchdown at St Cloud Tech, and didn't stop at that. Nathan Donovan got a hat trick (and two assists!), Will Miers scored two and there were single goals for Porter Ball (and a assist), JT Olson, Carver M. Tierney (and an assist) and Minneapolis City's all-time leading goalscorer Will Kidd.  Will Heinen got two assists and Alex Paredes and Agostino Quadrio Curzio also got assists.

Thursday:

Superior City FC 1-2 FC Minneapolis

The Lion Kings opened up the scoring through Yushi Nagamatsu in the 17th minute. Superior City equalized late in the first half through center back Matti Sysimaki from a corner. The visitors were reduced to ten men after Ayodele Gafer was sent off for handling outside the penalty area in the 65th minute, with Michael taking over as goalie. Aerial Gbalenchey then followed him into the away showers in stoppage time. Mally Lumsden finally broke the deadlock in the fourth minute of stoppage time, off a long cross-field pass from David Lopez Perez.  The match ended with 11 yellow cards, 4 of which turned into 2 red cards.

Coming Up:

Saturday

Worthington Community FC v Superior City FC

St Paul Blackhawks v Mpls City U21

18x26 Academy v Vlora FC

Austin Villa v Granite City FC

Sunday

St Croix Legends II v FC Minneapolis

Wednesday

Mpls City U21 v St Croix Legends II

FC Minneapolis v Austin Villa

Thursday

Granite City FC v Worthington CFC

Friday

Vlora FC v Leon FC


A pink shirted goalkeeper in the center of the frame stops a football with 5 other players looking on

UPSL Men's Round Up: Week 1


Saturday

Austin Villa 1-0 Vlora FC

CJ Tree, the 2023 Post Bulletin All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year, provided the decisive tally for the home team, late in the match.

St Croix Legends II 4-2 Superior City FC

It only took ten minutes for St Croix Legends II to break the deadlock as Nathan Donovan received the ball, shrugged off a defender and unleashed a ball from 20 yards out, across the goalie and in. Five corners are indicative of the strength of the Legends in the opening half-hour, capped by a second goal - Agostino Quadrico Curzio from a Luca Contestabile cross. Carter Thiesfeld made it three in stoppage time before half-time, as a Legends high press forced an interception in the City penalty area.

The second half started with a few minutes where St Croix were happy to cede possession to Superior City and play, very effectively, on the break. The home side scored their fourth when Thiesfeld blasted a rocket from fully 25 yards out at the hour mark. City finally got on the scoresheet in the 66th minute, Henrico Zena with a burst down the left wing and a solo finish on the second attempt after the first shot was parried. It was 4-2 in the 70th minute as a cross field diagonal from the right side of defense landed on the City left wing. Henrico Zena reversed the ball into the middle of the box and Mark Fehringer deeked a defender and planted the ball firmly into the roof of the Legends net.

Worthington Community FC 4-3 Leon FC

WCFC opened the scoring against last year's D1 winners in the 16th minute through Anton Cordes. Juani Mackrey made it 2-0 with a header off of the cross from Prince Lebbi. In a back and forth second half, Leon scored through Eric Contreras before Isaac F. Correa assisted a second Mackrey goal for the Toros and the home team made it 4-1 when Cordes scored his second. Leon put together a furious late rally, with further goals by Eric Contreras and Luis Contreras but in the end, the visitors fell just short.

Coming Up:

Sunday

Vlora FC v Worthington Community FC

Superior City FC v Austin Villa

Leon FC v 1826 Academy

Granite City FC v St Croix Legends II 

Thursday

Superior City FC v FC Minneapolis


The sadness of an Open Cup half-empty

The 110 year old Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is being threatened by current events. The regional governing body Concacaf have seemingly sided with MLS. Since the facts have been well-covered by others, I'm gonna stick with the light that the tournament brings and the emotional attachment many have to it. At the time of publication, the format for this year (and future years) has not yet been made public, and we will update you when it is. 

Multiple rounds of Open Division Qualifiers for the Open Cup are conducted by teams of hard-working amateurs. The amateur team that lasts longest gets $25000. It's the same for the longest lasting D2 pro and D3 pro teams.  Call me naïve if you want, but I feel like the Open Division is the best of us as a football nation. I love the amateur clubs who play their way through to face the professionals, and especially those who win such matches. This site wouldn't exist without our passion for amateur football. Others prefer the pride-filled matches between teams in different professional divisions, or different leagues at the same level. Also, let me say it is a travesty that women's football doesn't have a parallel tournament to the one we're discussing here. Nonetheless, the Cup is the connective tissue of of US football's body. 

I have a t-shirt from thecup.us, it celebrates the historic clubs to have won the title 4 times. Working with that site for the last few years, it has provided me a privileged window into this tournament and provided a personal, emotional tie between me in flyover country and this vast, messy country. It's a landscape where Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania and Maccabee Los Angeles are the most successful clubs ever, and where a stunning panoply of teams from across the nation have won at least once. 

It's ongoing history too, back in 2018, I was privileged to witness chaos on the turf when Dakota Fusion travelled to University of Minnesota Duluth and played out a 4-4 draw with Duluth FC. The game ended in a spectacular penalty shootout victory for the home side. It was the only time North Dakota has seen itself reflected in national football. DFC have qualified for the tournament again this year, this is their pinned tweet:

https://twitter.com/DuluthFC/status/1734708795975082333

I firmly believe that if the Cup did not exist, it wouldn't be created now and the fear is that any withdrawal by professional sides now will be difficult to reverse. Maybe the cancellations due to Covid 19 in 2020 and 2021 gave some people the impression that the history can be taken for granted.

There is an emerging belief among some football followers that amateur clubs should concentrate on the USASA Amateur Cup, but even that has a carrot at the end in the form of participation in the US Open Cup.

I believe that the Open Cup folding would also put a damper on the division 2 and 3 men's clubs who have no promotion to a higher division to dream of, and therefore can dream (sometimes even realize) victories against those larger clubs. These games provide a spotlight to professional players seeking to move up, as well as to pre-draft prospects from colleges big and small in a way that March Madness does for basketball. They provide a spotlight to the volunteers who literally make fields playable and clubs function.

It's not perfect, but it is a festival of possibility in a country where football is otherwise wedged into silos and I believe that unwinding MLS participation is the start of a steady process of debasing the tournament in a way which is very difficult to reverse and the horizon will seem darker without it.


WPSL North preview

Yes, it is too big but it features some of the best amateur players in the country, and some who have very recently been professionals. Let's look at the Northern Conference of the Women's Premier Soccer League.

Salvo SC

Having finished in second place in the North and taken a wildcard spot in the playoffs, Twin Cities-based Salvo made it all the way to the National Final before falling to a winner in the first minute of stoppage time and the end of the game by Charlotte Eagles. They were undefeated in the regular season, with two draws and six wins.

Minnesota Thunder

The regular season champions, but perennial refusers of a playoff berth, also finished undefeated, with seven wins and a draw. Kaitlyn MacBean went on a tear and finished the season with the most goals in the entire national league. The games between the two Twin Cities neighbors are usually fiercely contested.

Sioux Falls City FC

It's an exciting time in South Dakota, as the club prepare to launch a professional team in 2025 alongside the amateur side. They came third last season, behind Salvo on goal difference and with only one loss to their record (to Thunder). 

Dakota Fusion FC

Just up the I-29 is another prospective WPSL PRO club (In their case 2026). Given the presence of North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota in the Red River Valley and the fact that their closest amateur rival is nearly 250 miles away, Fusion should have a more consistent pool of players than has been the case. Nonetheless, there is no getting away from the fact that the women's side often features a strong Fargoan component. Last season continued a trend of the club being unable to keep the ball out of the net. They finished with zero wins and a -43 goal difference.

Joy Athletic Club

Based out of St Louis Park, just to the west of Minneapolis and affiliated with St Paul non-profit Joy of the People, the Goats accumulated three wins, four losses and two draws. 

MapleBrook Fury

Based in Maple Grove, a northwestern suburb of the Twin Cities, Fury tied Joy on 11 points but played two fewer games, accumulating a record of three wins, two draws and two losses. 

Manitou FC

White Bear Lake, MN in the northeast of the Twin Cities metro is home to Manitou FC. The club finished the season with three wins, five losses and a draw. 

St Croix Legacy 

Based on the eastern edge of the Twin Cities metro, Legacy had a see-saw season, with five wins, four losses and no draws. 

Mankato United

MUSC only managed two wins from nine matches, losing the other seven and finishing with a -10 goal difference. 

Rochester United

United finished the season with only three wins and six losses, coupled to a -21 goal difference.

Sioux City Sol

Emerging from nowhere to Siouxland between Sioux Falls and Omaha, they are playing "6 to 8 sanctioned matches" this year and joining the North fully next year.


USL League Two Deep North Preview

The Deep North division of United Soccer Leagues League Two stays largely unchanged, save for the departure of FC Manitoba in Winnipeg. Here's a look at the League Two landscape.

Thunder Bay Chill

The Division winners are back, having accumulated nine wins, two draws and only one loss on their way to the Conference Semifinals. They eventually lost to Des Moines Menace in extra time.

Minneapolis City SC 

The Crows finished second bottom in the Divisional table, with a record of three wins, three draws and six losses. Nonetheless, the non-playoff positions in the table were congested.

St Croix Legends

On the eastern edge of the Twin Cities metro in Stillwater, the Legends finished with five wins, six losses and a draw.

Rochester FC

The Loons in Southern Minnesota (as opposed to the MLS team) have had a busy off-season absorbing their NPSL-playing neighbors Med City FC and it will be interesting to see how the roster composition is impacted by a separate pool of players. RFC managed four wins, six losses and two draws.

Bavarian United

The legendary Bavs have racked up National Amateur Cup championships from their base in metro Milwaukee, but only managed one win in the USL L2 last season - their first in the league.

RKC Third Coast

The considerably younger Racine, WI based Third Coast made the playoffs in their debut season, but were up against Des Moines Menace and did not make it past that first round match. Their regular season record was eight wins, three losses and a draw.


NPSL North preview

The Northern Conference of the National Premier Soccer League has kept the same number of teams but it has traded in the unambitious Aris SC for the deeply ambitious Minnesota Blizzard FC. Here's a look at the landscape in the conference.

Duluth FC

The BlueGreens finished the 2023-24 season with an almost perfect record (one draw, 11 victories, no defeats) and topped the Northern Conference by a comfortable margin, although they would eventually fall to Med City FC in the Conference Final. Tyler Limmer scored 7 times for Duluth FC, as the leading scorer.

The Conference Champion Mayhem have merged into their neighbors Rochester FC and the Loons have gone on hiatus in the NPSL this year. The decision raises questions about the most heated rivalry that Duluth will have this season. 

Dakota Fusion FC

Fusion powered their way to second place in the regular season table on the back of 16 goals in 10 games (the Golden Boot winning top tally in the entire national league) from Yu Tsukanome, who has moved on to Tacoma Defiance in MLS Next Pro. He will obviously be a huge loss for the team from Fargo, who lost in the first round of the North Conference playoffs, to the Mayhem. The Zandbroz derby with Sioux Falls Thunder remains the most interesting match-up for Fusion. 

Sioux Falls Thunder FC

The South Dakotans only managed 1 win and finished bottom of the Conference regular season standings, managing to give Aris a farewell gift of not winning the wooden spoon on their way out of the league. Thunder drew three matches.

Siouxland United FC

86 miles South of Sioux Falls on the I-29 is its Siouxland rival, Sioux City, Iowa. The regional nickname covers a tristate area (South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska) along the Big Sioux River basin. SUFC are a brand new club with a detailed, but pretty standard, ethos. 

Joy Athletic Club

Powered by Joy (of the People), a St. Paul non-profit, they have a well-worn pipeline from their academy sides up into the NPSL but have struggled to translate that into playoff performance and finished last season 4-8.  

Minnesota TwinStars FC

The TwinStars are a really, really difficult club to track. The Twin Cities metro team finished last season fourth, 8 points out of the playoffs. They have most recently played at Minnetonka High in the west of the Twin Cities metro.

Minnesota Blizzard FC

Lastly, the spectacularly named Blizzard have arrived in Lakeville, an area on the Southern end of the Twin Cities metro which has not previously hosted NPSL games. 


The WPSL North is still too big

I argued last year that the WPSL North is too big. It's more than 51,000 sq miles, and it remains so, in fact with expansion into Sioux City Iowa, it's got even bigger. So how should we/would I split it?

You could do one of three things, in my mind.

a) Split it North-South.

b) Split it East-West, essentially along the line of Highway 10.

c) You could have a Twin Cities division and an Outstate (and indeed Out of State) division.

a) The North-South split

 

As you can see, this would put Mankato, Rochester, Sioux City and Sioux Falls together with Thunder (in Richfield) and Joy (St. Louis Park) in the Southern half. The Northern half would be Fusion (in Fargo), Manitou (White Bear Lake), MapleBrook (Maple Grove), St Croix (Stillwater) and Salvo (who play in Roseville). This would have the benefit of splitting up the traditional powerhouses so that we can have a juicy Championship match every year. Some would see the reduction in Twin Cities derbies as a potential downside.

Re-interpreting the results from this season: Thunder's only dropped points were against Salvo, so scratch them. Salvo dropped two points to Sioux Falls and Thunder, neither of whom they would have played. So we have a projected Championship between the two strongest teams anyway.

b) The East-West split

This arrangement would put Rochester on an island somewhat, so I'm not a fan. Mankato and Fusion are joined by MapleBrook, Thunder and Joy in the West. Again, Thunder and Salvo would face each other for the Conference.

c) The Twin Cities solution

This solution has the clear advantage of drastically reducing travel in the Metro. A split of any kinds also reduces travel for those Outstate teams too. It retains the Metro rivalries and the Zandbroz and Highway 14 Derbies. Last of all, it sets up a juicy Championship game with all sorts of Cities vs the rest atmosphere, if atmosphere is what you want. With the six Metro clubs (from NW clockwise: MapleBrook, Salvo, Manitou, St Croix, Thunder and Joy) only playing each other, Thunder and Salvo would fight for the Metro title and the Outstate title would have gone to Sioux Falls City, since their only dropped points were to Metro clubs.

Another argument for this alignment is the relative mobility of some of the Metro clubs. Salvo and Thunder both have camps across the Twin Cities, Joy of the People are based in St Paul.

If we take Thunder's non-participation in the playoffs to be a position statement, Salvo would face Sioux Falls City for a Conference Championship and that one spot in regionals.


NPSL Midwest Regional Finals Review

How did we get here?

The Gateway Conference went straight to its Championship match, and Des Moines United won 2-1 to advance.

The North Conference tournament saw Med City FC upset both the #2 seeded Dakota Fusion and the National #1 seeded Duluth on the road to earn their spot.

The Great Lakes Conference tournament saw Cleveland upset Michigan Rangers before they fell to Steel City FC.

The Heartland tournament saw the #1 seeded Tulsa Athletic advance.

Feel free to look back at those in detail, here.

The host site was chosen on a vote by the four competing teams, and the #4 seed (Steel City in Pittsburgh) lost out to the more centrally located #11 seed (Des Moines United in Indianola, IA).

Semifinals

#5 Steel City FC (Great Lakes) 0-0 (AET - 7-6 on PKs) #27 Med City FC (North)

Steel City had a golden opportunity to go ahead with only 5 mins on the clock, but Tate Mohney missed a chance unmarked in the six yard box from a counter attack. The first half finished goal less.

Med City's biggest chance came in the seventy-fifth minute, when Henry Tolbert took the ball off the toes of the Steel City keeper Garret Watson, but he failed to tap home into the open net. Iker Gonzalez kept Med City in it, with a point blank save. Two corners didn't result in a goal. A last minute goalmouth scramble for Steel City also failed to break the deadlock.

Steel City had another chance from close range as the first half of extra time. Tolbert had a good chance for Med City but his shot at the near post was under-hit.

In the penalty shootout, Steel City's Nolan Hutter missed, wide off the right hand post. Watson stopped the first Med City shot, from Toby Millward. Steel City's Bryan Akongo struck the decisive blow, as Matias Milla hit his own attempt high off the crossbar.

#8 Des Moines United (Gateway) 3-4 #12 Tulsa Athletic (Heartland)

In this battle of top-placed teams, Sora Noda had a chance for Des Moines in the eleventh minute, but from the save, the ball went right up the other end and Luis Flores scored from a free kick, direct from the top line of the penalty area. It was 2-0 in the thirty-ninth minute. United were temporarily down to ten men as a solo counter knifed down the right side vacated by the injured defender and it was blasted across the goalie into the side netting by Aboubakr Sidiki Moubarak Diallo.

The second half opened with United on the front foot but the early pressure did not result in any goals. Tulsa scored their third goal as Riolan Mello finished off an interception in the penalty area in the fifty-fourth minute. Only three minutes later, Aaron Ugbah finished with power, driving in from the left on the edge of the penalty area.  In the seventieth minute, United spoiled the clean sheet with a neat interchange of passes between the gridiron hashes before Lucas Malaguez swept home. Five minutes later, it was 4-2 through Lincoln Borges and only one minute after that it was 4-3, after Quentin Arnoud finished from a left wing corner. In the eighty-fifth minute, Nora's snap shot at the near post was saved for a corner. A free kick from twenty five yards out by United went high.

Final - #5 Steel City FC 1-2 (AET) #12 Tulsa Athletic

Regardless of who won this game, both Steel City and Tulsa Athletic received priority in the league's allocation of spots for the US Open Cup, along with the six other regional finalists. Ironically, after voting to hold the matches centrally in Iowa, it is the travelers from furthest East and the furthest South who played both days. Abou Diallo was a threat all night for Tulsa. Tate Mohney provided the most threat for Steel City.

Diallo put Tulsa ahead against the run of play in the twenty-fifth minute from a long ball over the top from Flores. He also had snapshots in the thirty-second and forty-second minutes blocked by last ditch defending.

The second half of regulation began with the same pattern of play. In the fiftieth minute, an Athletic free kick was whipped in, but the keeper gathered it. In the fifty-third minute, Tulsa also had a corner with no end result. The last third was end to end, with two Steel City corners back to back and a long shot from Tulsa. A Steel City attack in the seventieth was ended by a perfectly timed slide tackle, and up the other end it was Garret Watson stopping an Athletic free kick at point blank range. Both goalkeepers had outstanding stops in the eighty-second minute and then in the eighty-third minute, Steel City scrambled home the equalizer.

In the ninety-eighth minute, a Tulsa free kick was scrambled in, but the referee called offside. Ten minutes later, the game was finally settled when Aaron Ugbah dribbled across the field and took a shot from fully twenty yards out.

In a chaotic end to an otherwise calmly conducted game, Steel City ended the game officially down to eight men as Justin Copay, Rodrigo Albayeros and Brice Ghandi were all given straight red cards for dissent in the one-hundred-and-twentieth minute. 

Coming Up

For us, nothing else for this season. Tulsa Athletic moves on to play in the National Semifinals and we don't cover the Heartland, so we wish them well but won't be covering the National Semis.