By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Following a successful 2021 campaign, Minneapolis City SC looks to carry a wave of momentum and a trove of experience into this month’s U.S. Open Cup First Round.
Minneapolis City SC travels to face Des Moines Menace of USL2 on March 23 at 8:00 pm ET (7:00 pm CT) at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, IA, where it takes on a Menace team that captured the USL2 national title last season.
Though the Menace enter the Open Cup matchup with their championship, a coaching change in their club presents a strategic blessing for the Crows.
“Because of their [Des Moines] recent coaching change, we don’t quite know what to expect of them,” said Minneapolis City SC head coach Matt VanBenschoten. “This can be a good thing for us, though, because it means that we can really focus on our play, the continuity of our system and structure while emphasizing our collective mentality in preparing for the match.”
VanBenschoten’s side is excited to compete in this year’s Open Cup, and knows that its identity as a possession-dominant team will control the match against Des Moines. With the 4-3-3 formation, vanBenschoten said that his core style of play will be methodical.
The Crows have been preparing for this match since December 2021, working on ways to adapt their style of play to counteract whatever Des Moines has to offer. With a veteran group, VanBenschoten is confident that the moment won’t be too big for his players.
Experience in his players is a key aspect of the Open Cup match, said VanBenschoten, and these three are ones to look for during the contest: Goalkeeper Troy Louwagie has transformed from a new, rookie player to a leader who has shown up in big games, making crucial saves. Midfielder Tyler David brings extensive professional experience to the squad; David has USL Championship and USL1 experience, and brings a veteran skillset to the Crows. Lastly, the head coach called midfielder Aidan O’Driscoll “an Irish Zidane,” who plays “silky smooth, calm, and is so good on the ball,” said VanBenschoten.
With the vast experience Minneapolis City brings into the matchup against the Menace, last season’s momentum will also play a factor for the Crows in the motivation to continue that success starting with Open Cup play. Minneapolis City finished atop the North Conference standings in 2021 with an 11-1-0 regular-season record, making it to the NPSL Midwest Region Final.
“It’s a big moment for us as a club,” said VanBenschoten. “We’re excited just to be in it and get to play in this historic tournament. Equally, we’re excited to continue to play well after having a taste of success last year.”
VanBenschoten said that he hopes the team can use that momentum from the previous season and take that with them as motivation ahead of its matchup later this month. The head coach knows that this momentum can fuel his players to raise their competitive level another degree higher against Des Moines.
“No matter the result for us, I think the goal is to represent lower-league soccer the best we can and say ‘hey, we’re good at what we do’,” said VanBenschoten. “If nothing else, we just want to hopefully create some good magic memories in the U.S. Open Cup.”
Photo Credit: Daniel Mick