Minneapolis City’s first season ended one place in the Premier League West Division standings short of its preseason goal of reaching the playoffs, but established the Crows as possibly the best men’s team in Minnesota outside of Minnesota United’s NASL squad. Playing just 11 competitive matches in 2016, narrowing down potential nominees was a tricky undertaking. However, the four players listed below each distinguished themselves in the minds of multiple FityFive.One contributors.
The left back was selected to the PLA West Division Team of the Year, finishing second in the individual voting behind Cedar Rapids forward Gordy Gurson. Bah earned PLA Team of the Week honors for each week in which he played, impressing with both his attacking contributions and one-on-one defending. Having previously been a teammate of Matthew Gweh’s before the duo joined City, Bah’s combination play with the forward down the Crows’ left flank was a particular highlight of his game.
The goal keeper appeared in all but one of City’s games in 2016 across all competitions (head coach Keith Kiecker elected to rest the netminder at Croatian Eagles on June 11 as Elder had played a full 90 minutes in 90-plus degree heat in Cedar Rapids the day before). The netminder earned PLA West Division Team of the Year honors, posting a 1.4 goals-against average in league play, and captained the Crows to their first-ever U.S. Open Cup victory this past October.
The Minnesota Thunder Academy graduate quickly worked his way into the starting lineup despite being one of the team’s youngest players, having graduated high school in the spring before City’s inaugural campaign. The dynamic winger earned PLA Team of the Week honors following his performance in City’s first-ever competitive win, putting the Eagles’ defense under constant pressure before drawing a foul and setting up the game-winning penalty late in the second half. Friendt’s pace and workrate caused PLA defenders fits until his season was cut short by an injury sustained in the Crows’ fifth league contest.
The diminutive Wexler stood as tall as any Crow in 2016, providing guile and craft for City in the center of the field, and doing so without shying away from physical play as creative midfielders are sometimes prone. Wexler twice earned PLA Team of the Week honors, first for his poise and control in an away draw at Milwaukee Bavarians in City’s competitive debut, and then for his snapping tackles and range of passing in the Crows’ 3-0 home win over local rival Minnesota United Reserves. Used as both a No. 8 and a No. 10, Wexler’s consistently strong play earned him PLA West Division Team of the Year honors.
Captain Trey Benhart was as dependable as any center back in the PLA, and near-indomitable in the air, receiving a PLA Team of the Week nod for his efforts in City’s season-opening draw away to Bavarians. Right back Aaron Olson was a fixture in the Crows’ starting lineup, and his determined play resulted in a spot in the PLA Team of the Week following a tenacious effort in City’s 2-0 home loss to Bavarians. Target man Andy Lorei served as a hub for the Crows’ attack in the first half of City’s season, and the veteran scored the club’s first-ever brace. Additionally, Matthew Gweh, who tallied City’s first competitive goal, provided a direct attacking threat during Minneapolis’ league campaign, both as a wide and center forward.