The goal scoring started early in the matchup between LC Aris FC and the Minnesota TwinStars FC, and it didn’t finish until late. In the end, nine goals were scored with the Minnesota TwinStars outlasting their new LaCrosse, Wisc. rivals LC Aris FC.
Despite playing at their home field at Hopkins High School, the hosting TwinStars started the game on their back foot. As a possession team, Minnesota struggled to find a rhythm and connect passes while an early high-pressure defense from Aris caused disruption in the TwinStars rhythm. That pressure forced multiple turnovers in the first half of play which through skillful counter attacking play led to three first-half Aris goals.
It was Aris who got on the board first in the 7th minute. After asserting midfield pressure, Aris won a ball that sent Aaron Wagner through on goal slotting past TwinStars first half goalkeeper Sean Teske.
Just five minutes later Aris lit up the scoreboard again. Pressure, this time on the right sideline, caused another turnover which Aris quickly countered on. A series of passes allowed a shot that was blocked but the rebound came to Juan Flores who lobed an 18-yard shot over the TwinStars defense and keeper Teske to put his team up 2-0.
In the 24th minute, Lionel Karyea raced down his right flank and put a looping cross over the box. That ball found the right foot of Kilmar Kogiso who banged the ball confidently on the full volley back across the goal in into the far side netting putting Aris up 3-0.
With everything going the way of Aris, the TwinStars needed a bump in confidence which they received when Peter Xiong scored the first of two goals for his team in the 37th minute. Minnesota had received a free kick just off the left post and 25 yards out. Xiong stepped up and perfectly struck the ball over the four man wall tucking it just inside the near post. Aris goalkeeper Quinten Ludwig could only watch as the wind aided the impressive curl of Xiong’s shot.
With the score at now at 3-1, it was Xiong again, just five minutes later. With another free kick awarded, this time, wider and deeper, Xiong unleashed a perfectly placed driven cross towards the far post that handcuffed Ludwig. With the keeper waiting to see who might get on the end of the pass, the ball sailed by everyone and into the far post pulling the TwinStars within one goal just before halftime.
“I just wanted to hit into the right spot,” said Xiong. “I knew we had a man up on the keeper and our guys are going to put pressure on the ball if I put it in there. It was just the right place at the right time.”
However, the TwinStars weren’t finished. Just a minute later Samuel Contreras slipped down the right flank and sternly tested Ludwig with a point-blank shot that he dove and slapped out of danger.
With the momentum shifted the TwinStars had several good opportunities after the halftime whistle. Ludwig was tested again when Garga Nyah looped a long shot towards the far upper right corner of the goal. Ludwig made an outstanding save. Diving high he parried the ball away from the upper right corner of the goal.
The TwinStars tied the game up in the 63rd minute when Sikiru Kareem received the ball on the left of goal and whiffed his shot sending it through the goal box. Waiting on the other end was team captain Karim Darbaki who calmly gathered the ball and made two fakes before unleashing a hard shot in between defenders and the Aris goalkeeper to knot the score 3-3.
Aris wasn’t ready to roll over quit yet and clambered back into the game in 66th minute when Samuel Puchalla motored down the left flank. Turning inside he drilled a 20-yard shot past TwinStars second half substitute keeper Alam Patino, putting his team back on top 4-3.
The game was stretched in the final 15 minutes as the TwinStars young 18-year-old defensive midfielders started finding their feet. The thin roster of Aris, made thinner by a first half foul and injury to starting midfielder Wagner, took its toll.
The TwinStars battled back again when Anayo Kwazema found himself with the ball at his feet and a defender on each side. With only the Aris keeper to beat, he hit a hard roller to the left of Patino. The goalkeeper did well to get an outstretched arm on the ball but the velocity of the shot caused the ball to jump over his body. Aris defender Cole Pattison chased the ball as it slowly bounced towards the goal which he agonizingly watched roll into his goal.
In the end, the match was decided by the relentless pressure of the TwinStars who continued to press in front the Aris goal. After a mad scramble, the game was decided on the least spectacular of any of the nine goals on an eventful Sunday afternoon. Rookie NPSL player Ahmed Osman tapped the ball in from close range after Aris failed to clear their line. The 83rd-minute goal was the game-winner for TwinStars, allowing them to walk away with a 5-4 win.
After the game, Darbaki praised some of his younger players like Ethan Pitre.
“He’s a U-18 and will be a freshman this year at NIU.”
The TwinStars coach also tipped his hat to two other players who will be entering their freshman year at Division 1 schools this fall, Stevan Krickovic, and Keenan Newallo. Darbaki said they adjusted well and by the end of the game were contributing to the pressure that his team was putting on Aris.
“We are a high-pressure team and we try to pressure on top as much as we can,” reflected Aris coach Greg Saliaras. “We have a lot of young legs out there – 16 and 17-year-old kids. Overall I’d say it was a good game. The TwinStars are always going to be good competition. We were thin on players and we just ran out of legs at the end of the game. We’re still going to pick up some players and this was a good building block today.”