With the NPSL North’s title and playoff race becoming ever tighter, Duluth FC was faced with another home match and three points required to keep their season alive. Sioux Falls, who lost in a close 2-1 match against Duluth in their home match against the BlueGreens, represented a tough side that have struggled since their first few weeks of the season. Having come off of a strong three games, all of which were won without conceding a goal, Duluth’s rested and healed squad had a winnable but key game ahead.
Despite a history of being a second-half team, Duluth got the ball rolling early with two goals in the 14th and 22nd minutes. The first came from a clever run by Joe Watt, who passed the ball out to the side in the box where Dana Kowachek was able to score his fourth of the season. Tom Corcoran would grab his first of the season after he slotted in a long range free kick, beating the keeper to the far corner. With the half ending 2-0, Duluth had dominated the game but not avoided dangerous moments from Sioux Falls, whose squad never failed to show talent on the break.
The second half would start with a strong string of possession for Sioux Falls, who repeatedly came close to halving Duluth’s lead. With strong defending from a backline that once again featured a returning Gonnie Ben-Tal, this time paired with Ryan Tyrer, and strong moments from keeper Jan Hoffelner, Duluth kept the clean sheet and found their rhythm toward the end of the game. Said rhythm resulted in two more goals, one a long distance chip from Kyle Farrar and the other from Brooks Rice, who successfully challenged a defender on a bouncing ball and took advantage of the unprepared backline. Both goals were the second of the season for their respective players.
By scoring his fourth goal, Dana Kowachek has now tied center back Ryan Tyrer as the club’s leading goal scorer in league action, having scored three in Duluth’s first two games. Tyrer has lead the scoresheet with four goals since his game winning header at Sioux Falls on June 2nd, with close competition from the five other players who have two or more goals so far in league play.
Asked about who he would nominate as man of the match, Duluth FC head coach Joel Person simply stated, “This is a little unusual but I would like to select the entire back line” citing the club’s four game clean sheet streak as something earned by the work of all defensive players. For this weekend’s match against Sioux Falls, said backline consisted of Jan Hoffelner, Sora Wakabayashi, Ryan Tyrer, Gonnie Ben-Tal, Julian Lucumi Villegas, and Ivan Adika.
With a squad that can keep out goals while scoring them in handfuls, Duluth FC find themselves in a position to redeem themselves of the season’s early misgivings and still challenge for a the top two spots of the conference. With three games remaining, Duluth will have two home matches against mid-table opposition and a crucial away trip to current conference leaders Minneapolis City SC.
Contributor: Dominic Jose Bisogno/Duluth FC
Photo Credit: Alex Ganeev/Duluth FC