With their first string of away games coming to a close, Duluth’s visit to Rochester was always going to be a tough match-up that would help provide insight into the trajectory of the season.
With a draw and a win against Med City in 2017, the BlueGreens have always found the southern Minnesotan club a tough opponent regardless of recent results, as would prove true this week. Duluth’s squad saw the return of season-regulars like left back Julian Villegas and midfielders Sean Morgan and Santiago Castro. The side, reworked with its more known names and talents, could not find the scoring energy shown at the TwinStars or their USOC match against the Dakota Fusion.
At the end of the goalless draw on May 23rd, both clubs had drawn two yellows and a total of 26 fouls were called, fifteen of which for Duluth and nine for Med City.
Both front lines had chances, often, if not almost entirely, from long balls and corners. Neither back line looked ready to give in, with smart goalkeeping and luck constantly there to help out. The center back pairing of Cori Hill and Ryan Tyrer found themselves forced into constant defensive action in the second half as Med City found a deadly energy that had largely been missing and would combine with Villegas, Jan Hoffelner, and Sora Wakabayashi to earn the club’s first clean sheet of the season.
Asked about his team’s tough and defensive performance, Duluth FC head coach Joel Person saw the positives and negatives of the 0-0 draw.
“It is always a positive thing to go on the road and get a point and a clean sheet in the process. We have made a lot of progress defensively already this season… At the same time we struggled in possession of the ball and to create quality chances on goal. Overall I think we will be fine moving forward but we have some fine tuning to do in the attacking third.”
With the ever-looming issue of rotation at play, Duluth saw key names and new names both make contributions. Sora Wakabayashi, playing as a right back, made his second ever appearance for the club, having played a majority of the match against La Crosse Aris. Goalkeeper Jan Hoffelner was nominated by Person as the BlueGreens’ Man of the Match, being the first keeper to achieve a clean sheet for the club this season while competing with the likes of Alberto Ciroi and Tom Greensall for minutes.
The game did not provide the exciting thrills or goals of others, but it did show a continued ability to grab points from the road, leaving Duluth to focus on its home opener against a Minneapolis City side that has shown a similar ability to churn, and sometimes thrash, points out of its opponents this season. With clubs like VSLT and Minneapolis City continuing to grab points at every turn, further success on the road and against said clubs will likely prove the only path to Duluth’s hopes of retaining their 2017 conference title.
Contributor: Dominic Jose Bisogno/Duluth FC
Photo Credit: Alex Ganeev/Duluth FC