The Sioux Falls Thunder and Dakota Fusion opened their respective 2017 NPSL season with an entertaining game played in front of more than 400 fans at Yankton Trail Soccer Complex.
The inaugural game between the two new NPSL clubs got off to a quick start with Sioux Falls scoring in the eighth minute on a PK by Houston Hoffman who slotted his left footed shot to the right of Fusion goalkeeper, Stephen Harris (Lincolnton, NC).
Following the goal, Sioux Falls remained on the front foot and continued to attack the Fusion’s back line, but could not find the second goal. The Fusion settled into the game around the 20 minute mark and tied the score on a goal by forward, Akeem Smith (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) on an assist by Sunaj Beljulji (Mitrovica, Serbia) in the 22nd minute. The Fusion continued to apply pressure to the Thunder for the remainder of the half, but they could not get the second goal that they needed prior to half time.
Sioux Falls had a glorious chance of their own with about ten minutes to go before halftime when their forward broke through the Fusion back line, but the Fusion’s collective defending help to keep the ball out of the back of the net and the game went into halftime knotted at 1-1.
The Fusion began the second half and immediately applied pressure and tested the Thunder’s collective defending. The Fusion were able to generate a handful of good chances and earn a few corners before they scored what proved to be the game winning goal in the 67th minute on a near post tap in by Fusion defender, Adrian Baclawski (Kolno, Poland) off an assist by Akeem Smith. The Fusion were able to add a third goal and seal the win in the 76th minute when substitute, Jade Johnson (Jamestown, ND) broke free on a pass by Sunaj Beljulji and chipped Sioux Fall’s keeper from 25 yards out. The win marks the first win in the NPSL for the Dakota Fusion.
“This is a great way for us to open the NPSL season,” Fusion Head Coach Jim Robbins stated. “I am proud of the way that our team played and how both teams played tonight in front of such a supportive crowd. It was an entertaining game from start to finish. We look forward to playing again next week in our home opener back in Fargo.”