Minneapolis City took the field in its first-ever competitive match on Saturday. The setting was greater Milwaukee’s Bavarian Soccer Club on a beautiful spring night, squaring off against a Milwaukee Bavarians side expected to challenge for the top table position in the Premier League of America’s West Division. Fifty-some City fans made the six-hour trip by van and car, filling half the main stand before kickoff.
The hosts ran out in a 4-2-3-1 with Jim Jones in goal. Brett Dietz, Daniel Jarosz, Luke Goodnetter and Greg Rosenthal lined up from right to left across the back. Logan Andryk, Tighe Dombrowski, Kyle Zenoni, Daniel Holowaty, and Kelmend Islami made up the five-man midfield, with Andre Francois serving as the lone striker.
City, in its Eradicator-pink away shirts, countered with a 3-5-2. Matt Elder started between the posts, with Aaron Olson, captain Trey Benhart and Abdallah Bah in defense. Nate Engel was pushed forward from his preseason position of centerback to holding midfielder–a position he had played previously in college–and tasked with playing the role of destroyer while partnering Samuel Ruiz Plaza in the center of the pitch. Connor Stevenson played on the right wing opposite Kevin Hoof on the left. Ben Wexler sat in front of Engel and Ruiz Plaza, while Matthew Gweh played support striker to target man Andy Lorei.
The Crows produced the first scoring chance of the match in the 11th minute, but Kevin Hoof headed the contest’s first corner wide.
City’s first shot on target came in the 20th minute. Hoof let fly with an ambitious effort from beyond the arc, but Jones collected comfortably for Milwaukee.
Holowaty nearly gave Bavarians the lead in the 22nd minute, but his shot from the edge of the 18-yard box bounced low and wide of both a diving Elder and the far post.
Abdallah Bah was given a yellow card a few minutes later. The defender jumped to block a Bavarians’ effort as the ball struck his right upper arm. The were protests from City players as Bah’s arm was not extended, but they fell on deaf ears.
A few moments later, Dombrowski hit a low, driven cross from outside the 18-yard box with his right foot, curving the ball in the direction of Holowaty. Fortunately for the Crows, Elder was not called into action as Holowaty’s diving header glanced wide.
The younger of the two sides, City grew into the match and had some success pressing as the first half progressed. At the back, Elder was particularly strong in the air, having punched a pair of corners and a free kick clear of his area by the 33rd minute.
The Crows began to have success advancing the ball through the middle of the pitch. Though not involved with City’s distribution to the extent Ruiz Plaza was, Engel showed poise and an awareness on the ball, making the simple passes needed.
Stevenson attempted to get City on the board in the 41st minute, but his 25-yard effort one-hopped wide of the far post.
Elder was called into action shortly thereafter, making a nice clearance with his foot from the edge of the 18-yard box. Francois had played the ball on to a streaking Dombroski, but City’s keeper reached the ball a half-step before Dombroski could get a foot to it.
Bavarians nearly scored in the final minutes of the first half. Elder dove to his right to save a low shot and may have gotten a piece of the ball before it caromed off the post. The rebound came off to Engel, who promptly cleared.
City produced a pair of chances in the closing moments of the half. Wexler smacked a hard shot from the top of the arc that was headed for the upper 90, but it was straight on line with Jones who was able to jump and hold the strike.
Then, Stevenson got off a header just before the half came to a close, but Jones again was able to hold, this time diving to his right.
Upon the resumption of play, Engel offered City’s first effort of the second half from 30 yards out, but the centerback-turned-holding midfielder’s shot sailed high and wide.
Shortly thereafter, the Bavarians’ Logan Andryk made a mazy run cutting in from Milwaukee’s left flank, around multiple Crow defenders, and into the penalty area. His deflected shot billowed the netting outside the near post.
Minutes later, Benhart found himself in a footrace for a longball with Francois, but the captain was able to edge the Bavarians’ forward by half a length and play the ball back to Elder.
By this point in the match, City was doing a good job of retaining possession, but remained unable to produce an incisive pass in the attacking third. Isaac Forsgren—a second-half substitution—was making good use of fresh legs, pressing and making runs up and down City’s right wing.
Braden Andryk, also a second-half substitution, tested Elder in the 70th minute with a low, hard shot from the edge of the 18-yard box, but Elder was able to dive and hold.
In the 80th minute, a Crows’ turnover in midfield resulted in a dangerous four-on-three counter for the Bavarians, but substitute Jake Taylor was flagged for offside just as he was squaring up a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Near the 90th minute, an errant backpass forced Benhart into a 50-50 challenge with Zenoni. Benhart caught a bit of Zenoni’s leg and none of the ball, resulting in a yellow card and a free kick 25 yards out from the center of the Crows’ goal. Zenoni got the kick up-and-down over the Crows’ wall, but the strike was hit straight at Elder who caught the ball without difficulty.
Bavarians were the fitter of the two sides, and City had begun to struggle with Milwaukee launching a number of counters late. To that end, the Crows nearly suffered heartbreak in the final seconds of the match as a Bavarians’ counter culminated in a Braden Andryk shot that struck the inside on Elder’s left post, and deflecting right, rolled across the mouth of goal. But the Crows were able to clear, and the referee blew the final whistle seconds later.
The match was an interesting duel between City’s possession-based approach and a Bavarians team content to defend deep and strike on the counter. The latter created a greater number of dangerous chances on the night, hitting the post twice. For Minneapolis, the evening was a success, earning a point on the road against one of the oldest and strongest clubs in the league. For Milwaukee, the contest surely left a bitter taste in the Bavarians’ mouths, having twice come inches from picking up all three pionts.
After the match, Bavarians head coach Tom Zaiss was complimentary about the Crows’ inaugural PLA performance, but noted, “To hit the post twice, it was probably a good point for [City], and probably a disappointing point for us.”
City head coach Keith Kiecker was pleased with his side’s performance on the whole. “We had a talk with the guys before the game,” said Kiecker. “Game management, first 15 minutes, get it under possession. I think they did that really well.”
Escaping with a point from a match when Milwaukee had the run of play down the stretch, Kiecker offered, “Our fitness is where we’re most struggling right now. We’re not a pro team where we can train five days a week. That’s something we need to focus on. We’re not 90-minutes fit, we’re 75-minutes fit, but I’m proud of the way our guys played.”
Ruiz Plaza, who was instrumental in City’s build-up play, reflected on taking the pitch for the club’s first match. “It was definitely a little nerve-wracking at first, not knowing what to expect. Didn’t know exactly what the level would be like, or what we’d be against,” said the midfielder. “It went well, got a good point on the road, which is huge. The final pass was missing today, but I think that’s definitely something we can build up over the next few weeks.”
Elder, who recorded the first clean sheet in Minneapolis City history, turned in one of the better performances on the night with five clearances from corners and free kicks. “It’s a goalie’s field, and definitely a goalie’s box,” said Elder. “That’s where I really want to be able to shine. Not just the shot stopping, but owning the box.”
Having acquitted itself well in its first PLA match, City will now turn its attention to next weekend’s home opener when the Crows host Milwaukee’s Croatian Eagles.
Image gallery available at Daniel Mick Creative: http://www.danielmickcreative.com/Minneapolis-City-SC-vs/
MILWAUKEE BAVARIANS: Jim Jones, Brett Dietz, Daniel Jarosz, Luke Goodnetter, Greg Rosenthal, Kyle Zenoni, Tighe Dombrowski, Kelmend Islami, Logan Andryk, Daniel Holowaty, Andre Francois
SUBS: Braden Andryk, Jake Taylor, Dogara Zamani
MINNEAPOLIS CITY: Matt Elder, Aaron Olson, Trey Behhart, Abdallah Bah, Nate Engel, Samuel Ruiz Plaza, Kevin Hoof, Ben Wexler, Connor Stevenson, Matthew Gweh, Andy Lorei
SUBS: Isaac Forsgren, Ryan Cammarota, Emmanuel Ekunseitan
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