By Dominic Jose Bisogno/Duluth FC
Duluth FC started their 2021 season with an eventful 4-3 home win over NPSL North new arrivals Joy Athletic, marking the second time Duluth FC has started a NPLS season with a home win. Joy Athletic arrived having already played twice in a 4-1 win over the Dakota Fusion and a 2-2 draw with La Crosse Aris.
The night started strong for Duluth, as returning striker James Westfield scored off of Duluth’s first real chance early in the fifth minute. New face Sidney Warden would add a second goal in the 21st minute, starting an impressive night and giving Duluth a temporary 2-0 lead over the visitors.
Joy Athletic, however, showed the same scoring prowess they started the year with and found two goals before halftime. The first was a diving tap in from Phillip Capudo followed by a speedy run from Emanuel Iwe, who was one of Joy’s most impressive players on the night.
Sean Morgan, making his coaching debut for Duluth, was left with a lot of work to do at halftime, having watched his lead disappear. The second half would start poorly for Duluth, who found themselves on the wrong side of a momentum switch. Joy Athletic took the lead for the first time on the night with an own goal from a Duluth defender.
Their lead only lasted eight minutes, however, as Dylan Sumner, making his Duluth debut, scored off of a wonderful cross which was headed back into the center of the box by Liam Condone. Despite all the odds, Warden would find a fourth goal for Duluth with less than ten minutes remaining, capping a hard work performance from the forward.
Warden was nominated as Duluth’s man of the match by Head Coach Sean Morgan for his strong debut, having already started the season as the temporary leader in Duluth’s top scorer race and managing to stay in the match for the full 90 minutes despite the humid conditions.
Duluth also earned strong performances from all of its returning players, with all four starting the match and two playing the entire 90 minutes. Condone and Jake Starling both anchored the Duluth defense, while James Westfield opened the scoring and Aidan Hill made a promising start in the BlueGreens midfield. The night also marked DFC debuts for Eric Watson and Scott Wilson, who both appeared as substitutes. Both play collegiately for the University of Wisconsin Superior and recently won the UMAC Championship.
The result means that Duluth’s new head coach, former player Sean Morgan, starts his tenure with a win after waiting the entirety of 2020 to make his debut at the head of the club.
Duluth’s next match will be away against Minneapolis City SC on May 26th at Edor Nelson Field. Minneapolis City is the only other club that has won the NPSL North title, winning twice in 2018 and 2019, while Duluth won in 2017 and additionally won the Midwest Region title in 2018.
Photo Credit: Holden Law