Duluth FC managed to grab their second clean sheet victory just one week after they earned their first against the Dakota Fusion, this time in an away match against VSLT FC.
VSLT handed Duluth their first and only loss of the 2018 regular season when they visited the north shore just ten days earlier and the early rematch provided Duluth with a chance to repeat their record against VSLT from 2017, in which both clubs won on the road.
The first half and a portion of the second mirrored the last several games for Duluth, with both clubs having serious chances but failing to make them count. Ryan Tyrer had a chance to increase his hold on the title of lead goal scorer after he found himself with space in the box, but shot was well-saved. Liam Moore also dished out several crosses that threatened the keeper, though none ended in a goal.
Possession was relatively even with both squads struggling to keep the ball and finish on target. The second half picked up the pace as substitutions changed the pace of the game and Duluth began to control the pitch. VSLT created several near-fatal chances, with Duluth goalkeeper Jan Hoffelner making several key saves in one-on-one situations with attackers, saves that would become all the more important once Duluth grabbed their goal.
Said goal came late in the match as Brooks Rice grabbed his first goal for the BlueGreens by rocketing the ball past defenders and into the top of the net. Rice’s shot came after center back Cori Hill had used a long throw to send the ball to the far end of the six-yard box. The goal joins a list of key goals created by Hill’s long throw technique. In many ways the match was a mirror of its predecessor in Duluth. Both sides performed well in their moments but at a certain point the shadow of a 0-0 draw began to form only for the away side to grab a goal toward the end.
One of the notable mentions in the squad was the return of Gonnie Ben-Tal, who started on the bench but subbed in early on in the second half. Ben-Tal was a regular key piece for the defense in 2017 as a center back but put his return shift in for Duluth in 2018 as a midfielder. Ben-Tal had been unavailable for a large portion of the season and provided a reminder of how returning talent from the previous season can be the perfect blend with Duluth’s newer talents.
The win comes at a vital point for the North Conference as Duluth fight to edge into the top two spots and look forward to a three game stint of home games which could provide a lifeline for a Duluth squad looking to end their second season in the NPSL on a strong note. The three points in Saint Paul continues Duluth’s strong road record in 2018 as they have yet to lose away from home.
Contributor: Dominic Jose Bisogno/Duluth FC
Photo Credit: Alex Ganeev Photography