In the third meeting between the two clubs this season, Duluth FC and Minneapolis City SC played a gritty, close, and eventually historic match to determine who would represent the NPSL North Conference in the Midwest Region final.
Minneapolis were handed a setback as one of their players was unable to come on to play for just over 15 minutes, being subbed for after Duluth scored their first goal in the 17th. Said goal came from Kyle Farrar, who was put one on one with the keeper and slotted his fourth goal of the season and his 18th goal in two years of NPSL play.
Minneapolis, restored to full strength, found their way back into the match and eventually earned their equalizer in the 36th minute through a deadly run down the left wing. Finished by Branden McGarrity, the goal would be the last in regulation time. The second half would include big saves for both keepers, Jan Hoffelner and Matt Elder, and see both sides come ever so close to breaking the deadlock. A standout chance was a Brooks Rice volley at an acute angle that would have found its way into Minneapolis’ open net if not for an off-the-line save by a City defender. Santiago Castro also contributed one of the stronger chances of the half as he sent a shot belting at the keeper from outside the box.
Eventually forced into added extra time, both sides continued to substitute and force a key chance. Duluth’s best and key chance would arrive in the 115th minute of added time as a low cross to Farrar was affected by a defender’s hand, resulting in a penalty for Duluth. Ricardo Ramos, who had recently subbed on for Rice, took the penalty, having recently scored one in Duluth’s PK shootout with Grand Rapids FC. Though Elder made contact with the kick, it made its way into the back of the net and put the BlueGreens up a goal.
With mere minutes left, Minneapolis City proceeded to create several deadly chances in their search for an equalizer, testing Hoffelner and his backline a constant basis. The final whistle would come after three added minutes, giving Duluth their first-ever regional playoff semifinal win. Hoffelner earned the win mere hours after being awarded the spot of goalkeeper in the Midwest Region XI, with three of Duluth’s players featured in the North Conference XI (Ryan Tyrer and Joe Watt being the other two).
The match, while certainly important for Duluth’s season, also marks the end of a historic run by Minneapolis City, who went 15 straight games in the NPSL this year undefeated. While the club will hope to go further and win more in the future, their run in the North was a unique moment in which a club managed to dominate while still existing in a very competitive conference. In the end both clubs reminded everyone why they have been and continue to be two of the clubs to watch out for in their conference.
Duluth will now face AFC Ann Arbor in the Region final in hopes of earning a spot as the Midwest’s representative in the national semifinals. It will be Duluth’s first time in the final and the first time they face Ann Arbor in a competitive match.
Contributor: Dominic Jose Bisogno/Duluth FC
Photo Credit: Alex Ganeev/Duluth FC