By Minneapolis City SC
Minneapolis City SC traveled to Duluth knowing that a win would retain their North Conference title. And it was not just a win they delivered, but a carbon copy of the 4-2 victory over Duluth FC that clinched the 2018 conference title.
It was a hot afternoon kickoff, and both teams played with great intensity.
The Crows were clearly looking to blitz Duluth early and their attacking intent paid off. At the quarter hour, Nick Hutton powered into the box and was fouled. Unruffled, he stepped up and converted the penalty to take the lead.
Both sides, familiar with each other after years of sparring for trophies, settled into strong possession-based games, building from the back, and intelligently moving the ball around. And yet, as the half hour approached, City remained the most dangerous with both Hutton and Whitney Browne using their pace and movement to trouble the Duluth defense.
The pressure remained on from the away side, but the finishing wasn’t there and the half ended 1-0.
That left the match finely poised. Duluth needed to win to have a chance of winning the conference crown, so they had to push on.
Push on they did, starting the half well. Only center back Jonah Garcia, with a few crucial clearances, kept them at bay.
And then, somewhat against the run of play, winger Justin Oliver went on a mazy, speedy, unstoppable run and topped it off with a fine finish to double the lead. He ran in celebration to the traveling supporters.
It wasn’t over as a competitive match though as Duluth came roaring back. Dutchman Lucas Jacobs halved the deficit just three minutes after Oliver scored.
But then Minneapolis City were back at it. Will Kidd fired in a shot, and with shades of Rapinoe’s free kick against France, Duluth defender Ben-Tal whiffed his clearance and that seemed to fool the goalkeeper. The official scorer said own goal and it was now 3-1 to City with 15 minutes to play.
A minute later—with the scoreboard not even updated yet— Oliver went on a duplicate mazy, speedy, unstoppable run and topped it off with a fine finish to make the game 4-1. In this game last year, he also scored a brace as City beat Duluth to win the conference crown.
If there is one thing that is true about this Duluth team it’s that they never say die. Down three goals with 15 minutes left, they kept at it and were rewarded with a goal to bring the scoreline to 4-2 with seven minutes left.
City seemed content to pack it in and run down the clock, which they did to take the win and the conference title.
It was déjà vu all over again given that last season City had beaten Duluth 4-2 to win the conference.
Photo Credit: Daniel Mick