Mayhem head coach Luke Corey deployed his charges in a 4-2-3-1 to begin the game. Joan Carles Perez Castro started in goal behind a back four of Javier Gomez, Jared Wolt, Ignacio Milla, and Tiernan Patrick Talbot. Ignacio Garrido and Alexis Tahet formed the base of a midfield triangle with Dumic at its point, while up top. Dion Dozzell was flanked by Turnbull and captain Midhat Mujic.
Crows head coach Adam Pribyl, back from a one-game suspension for dissent, also made use of a 4-2-3-1. Matt Elder played between the posts, shielded by a back line of Aaron Olson, Trey Benhart, Nate Engel and Abdallah Bah. Ian “Steve” Smith operated as a holding midfielder, with Brian Kallman assigned No. 8 duties behind Martin Browne, Jr. as the latter played as a No. 10. Tim Wills was given the start at center forward, with Javier Alcantara on his right and Isaac “Goose” Friendt to his left.
Med City came out of the gate running, and while Minneapolis held a good amount of possession, the Crows were not particularly sharp. Meanwhile, the Medics were content to let the Crows search for their touch while taking their opportunities on the counter. While a bit of nice team play was hinted at by Friendt, Wills and Alcantara, the early half-chances fell to Med City.
Then came the brief window of time Med City would use to seize control of the game.
In the 16th minute, Dumic received the ball on the left edge of Minneapolis’ 18-yard box. The attacking midfielder made a determined cut to his right, creating his own look at goal, then curled the ball towards the far corner. Perhaps complaints could be made about the space Dumic was given, but it would be unfair to fault Elder, as the goal keeper was left with little chance at a wonderfully placed shot.
The Mayhem had scored with their first effort on target, and were about to go two-for-two.
Perhaps suffering from a bit of shock, the Crows turned the ball over in quick succession following the restart.
Winning the ball, Turnbull initiated one-two with his center forward Dozzell, then held off Minneapolis right back Olson, and smacked the ball over Elder from close range, into the back of the net.
“Dion slotted it through, and I took a touch,” Turnbull said. “I saw an opening, and hit it with my left as hard as I could. Thankfully, it’s gone in the top corner past the keeper.”
When the feeling of being stunned wore off for the Crows, tensions flared in the 20th minute. Following a physical battle for the ball at midfield, Friendt and Tahet took part in a short shoving match, and had to be separated by referee Tyler Spiczka. The official paused the proceedings to speak with both players, individually, in an effort to settle the game down.
A foul committed by Tahet three minutes later would open the door for Minneapolis to get back into the game.
Awarded a free kick from a little over 30 yards out from goal, Browne addressed the ball.
“Martin was standing at the ball for probably 30 seconds, and the guy that was guarding me was standing on the wrong side of me,” noted Wills. “I pointed, Martin seemed like he saw what I was doing, and he put it right on the spot.”
Wills sprung forward into the fray in front of goal, heading the ball squarely. Perez Castro, who had come off his line and out to the edge of the six-yard box, was left with no play on the ball, and Minneapolis had cut Rochester’s lead in half.
For Browne, it was the third set-piece goal in which he had been involved (two assists, one goal), and that halfway through Minneapolis’ third game of its NPSL campaign.
In the 36th minute Friednt was fouled (again). Browne’s free kick sent towards the back post was headed across the face of goal through traffic, and fell to Benhart. The center back’s half-volley found only the abdomen of a Med City defender.
Minneapolis would threaten Rochester’s goal from another free kick when Browne targeted a ball for Benhart’s head, but the searching pass was punched clear by Perez Castro.
The two sides would close out the first half trading yellow cards. The first of the pair was issued to the Crows’ Smith for colliding with Turnbull during a Medics’ counter. The second given to Milla for a diving tackle on Kallman as the veteran made his way up Minneapolis’ left flank.
Kallman resumed the attack for the Crows, and produced the first threat on goal following the restart, coming fairly close to chipping Perez Castro from just inside the halfway line. Fortunately for Med City, the speculative attempt sailed over the crossbar by a couple feet.
As the half progressed and Minneapolis chased the game, the Crows adopted an increasingly-direct style of play.
In the 55th minute, Minneapolis’ Bah was issued a yellow card for a tug on Mujic’s back shoulder. It is no coincidence the Mayhem’s captain’s name is not mentioned previously in this report save for in the listing of starting line-ups — such is the fate of many wide players lining up across from Bah.
Taking advantage of the stoppage in play, Corey took the opportunity to bring in lanky defender Moe Tageldin on for Milla, playing the former as a sweeper behind Wolt.
“We saw that they were trying to hit those long balls,” said Corey. “We figured, ‘Hey, let them try to beat two of our tallest guys.’ Most of their chances came off set pieces, so we knew that in the run of play, if we dropped a man back, we could beat anyone to the ball, clean up, and work the ball out of our own end.”
Protecting a one-goal advantage, Med City was increasingly content to let Minneapolis pass the ball between its defenders and attempt long diagonal passes from its back line.
The Crows did ratchet up the pressure over a four-minute period beginning in the 70th minute, stacking a series of corners and throw-ins in the Medics’ end, but Rochester successfully weathered the brief tempest.
In the course of tinkering with his side, Pribyl brought on Connor Stevenson (center forward), Will Kidd (left wing) and Ben Wexler (attacking midfielder). The three began to get some decent combination play going in the game’s final 10 minutes, but pressure was mounting as the Crows were minutes away from a potential defeat.
In the 89th minute, with Minneapolis turning to a familiar source of offense, a free kick from Browne rattled around in traffic and past Perez Castro, but Corey’s substitutions had proven astute, and the ball was cleared off the goal line via a bicycle kick from Tageldin.
A minute into added time, a free kick by Browne was headed by Bah. The ball struck Perez Castro’s left post after the keeper declined to make an attempt at the ball.
The rebound fell to the Med City keeper, and Minneapolis’ last serious scoring threat was smothered.
Corey was in high spirits following his team’s road victory.
“It wasn’t the prettiest soccer on our end, but our guys really ground out that win,” the Med City head coach said, smiling. “Not every win is pretty… There are going to be no easy games in this league, as we learned last week in Fargo, and tonight as well. If we want to finish top two, we’ve got to grind out games like this. And we also have to come and assert our dominance in games as well.”
Turnbull, who tallied the game-winning score, was also pleased with the Medics’ effort.
“We worked really hard for it. I’m glad I got my first goal for Med City. That was a big thing. But yeah, boys worked hard, got three points, and we’ll go again Saturday.”
On the other sideline, Pribyl rued his side’s slow start.
“So what happened today, is they come out with a shit-ton more energy, and they beat us in the first 20 minutes,” Pribyl stated. “They wanted it more. And we’ve got a target on our back, and our guys haven’t fully realized that yet — that the target will always be there.”
On the visible disconnect between midfield and attack, Pribyl offered, “When ball movement is sluggish, and we don’t make a team move left-to-right, and shift, then it’s tough to find the holes. Teams are sitting back against us. And so, when our back line is boom… boom… boom… and then hit a long ball, well that’s bad soccer. When it’s boom-boom-boom-boom and now we’re combining in the midfield and breaking [the other team] down, now that’s soccer. And that’s what we need to start doing.”
With Minneapolis City hosting Dakota Fusion on Friday, and Med City facing Viejos Son Los Trapos in St. Paul on Saturday, both teams were already looking ahead to the weekend.
“[Tonight’s win] is going to give our guys a boost of confidence that they need,” said Corey. “I think that we can go in to Saturday knowing that we can play with any team in the league, and that we can beat any team in the league, as well.”
Turnbull echoed his head coach’s thoughts, offering, “The boys are buzzing right now. You can hear in the dressing room, in there, everyone’s ecstatic. Going in confident next game. It’s nice to get a win after losing.”
Meanwhile, Pribyl was focused on getting his Crows back on track.
“I’ll tell you, I’m going to be up all night. I’ll watch the film,” said Pribyl. “We have a film session tomorrow, and we’ll make some changes. I fully expect we’re going to rebound from this. This is not what we’re going to expect from this team.”
Wills, already aware of Thursday’s itinerary, was looking to get back to work. “We’ve got a film session tomorrow. Hopefully, correct some things, and get back out here on our home field and try and get a result.”