In what can be considered an eventful home opener if nothing else, Duluth FC battled to a 1-1 draw against Minneapolis City. Having only played cup games in Duluth thus far in 2018, the match was the BlueGreens’ first chance to earn points and score goals in a league match in front of their own supporters.
After a long stint of possession and chances for Duluth, Minneapolis created a chance out of thin air as Will Kidd slipped between two defenders and struck the ball past keeper Jan Hoffelner. Duluth would equalize in the 37th minute after Garga Nyuah struck in a loose ball after defender Sora Wakabayashi dribbled his way around several defenders sent the ball into the box. The goal was Nyuah’s first of the season.
The first half would also see several fouls and yellow cards; the first in the ninth minute for Minneapolis’ Ian Smith, the other two for Ryan Tyrer and Liam Moore of Duluth FC.
As the second half clocked on both sides made numerous substitutions as they searched for the game-changing goal. Said goal never came, with both sides taking their chances and creating dangerous situations. The last minutes of the match held some drama as Aaron Olson made a tackle on Julian Villegas outside of Minneapolis’ 18-yard box.
The game saw both squads tap into depth, with Minneapolis City calling up players like Josh de la Rosa and Matt Murakami from their U-23 team to help reinforce key injuries. Duluth also featured different attacking players as key forwards like Ricardo Ramos and Kyle Farrar continued to be unavailable to play. Center back Alex Peterson made his debut and first start for the club, subbing off for Cori Hill in the second half.
Sora Wakabayashi continued to stand out among Duluth’s defenders in his third straight appearance for the club with his assist and general play, having only been with the team since he arrived to watch the U.S. Open Cup game against Saint Louis FC, playing his first match against La Crosse Aris FC later that week. For his efforts Wakabayashi was named Man of the Match by head coach Joel Person.
Person had a lot to say about Saturday night’s clash.
”I am proud of how much progress we have made as a team from the beginning of the season until now. We have improved every game and we will continue to work hard to build in a positive direction. Our schedule hasn’t done us any favors either… When you add in the US Open Cup matches, we have played 6 games in only 18 days, with three out of our four leagues games on the road. I think that started to catch up to us during the second half tonight even though we made some changes to put some fresh legs on the field. We will have to continue to rotate players to offset the challenges we face with the schedule as we have two more road trips this week.”
The draw means that Duluth will currently hold fourth place due to an eventful home match for the Minnesota TwinStars, but will stay within two and one points from second and third place respectively. With two away days in both Dakotas awaiting the BlueGreens next week, the need for points in the first half of the season looms ever larger over clubs like Duluth FC, who find themselves in the middle of an eventful and difficult conference.
Contributor: Dominic Jose Bisogno/Duluth FC
Photo Credit: Alex Ganeev Photography