With a freshly united squad and only days to put together a competitive group, Duluth FC walked out on Sunday afternoon under pressure and three vital points up for grabs. Despite the circumstances, the Duluth proved able to secure a comfortable win over the Sioux Falls Thunder.
Two first-half goals would give Duluth their win. The first came from Ronaldo Fortune, who met Lucas Mostajo’s excellent cross and sent the ball surging into the back of the net with a well-timed header. The goal was Fortune’s first for the club.
Duluth almost doubled their lead when Almeida, a returning player from 2018, made a smart turn and struck a thunderous effort toward goal from roughly 30 yards out. The ball met the top right corner of the frame and fell relatively calmly for the Sioux Falls keeper to pick up. Having scored one goal out of a handful of appearances in 2018, the strike was a sign that 2019 may prove a dangerously productive year for the Brazilian.
Duluth eventually found its second goal due to the efforts of fellow Brazilian Carlyle Junior, who received a calm pass from Fortune in the midfield before starting a dangerous solo run through the Sioux Falls defense. Upon arriving on the edge of the box, Junior took one more touch before striking the ball cleanly into the far corner. The goal would be Junior’s first for Duluth.
The second half would end at 2-0, with Sioux Falls failing to capitalize on a handful of well-earned runs. The visiting side’s best chances arose during two free kicks, one five yards out from the edge of the box facing the goal and the other close to the right corner of Duluth’s defensive third.
The second half would be a less active one for both sides, with Sioux Falls gaining a more tangible portion of the possession after having nearly none in the first half. Both sides made attempts to score, though Alberto Ciroi and Sullivan Lauderdale, who subbed in for Ciroi in the second half, were rarely challenged.
A tight save off the line prevented substitute Ian McIntosh from joining in on the fun toward the end of the match and the game would eventually end 2-0, handing Duluth a strong clean sheet win to start the summer.
Fortune would receive head coach Joel Person’s nomination for Man of the Match after providing a goal and assist on his club debut. The Botswanan forward was a constant threat throughout the match, creating several additional chances for the home side.
With eight new players appearing for the club over the course of the match, a notable moment for Duluth FC arose when Charlie Evans subbed in for Carlyle Junior. Evans was with the club throughout 2018 but did not make any appearances due to a long-term injury that prevented from featuring.
Duluth will play its next league match on May 11th against the Minnesota TwinStars and will face the Des Moines Menace on May 8th in the U.S. Open Cup.
By Dom Bisogno/Duluth FC
Photo Credit: Bill Garrett Photography