It took the BlueGreens more than 45 minutes of game time to provide an answer to a first-half goal from City’s Martin Browne, Jr., but midfielder Mally Lumsden rescued a point for Duluth at the death.
The Twin Cities had seen nine-consecutive hours of rain prior to kickoff, but the artificial surface at Edor Nelson Field had no problems with drainage. By kickoff, the rain had lightened to a mere sprinkle, but grey skies set the stage nonetheless.
William Totimeh was on the sideline as acting head coach for Minneapolis as Adam Pribyl, serving a one-game suspension following his ejection from City’s season-opening game, watched from the press box.
The former lined up the Crows in a 4-2-3-1. Peter Runquist started in goal for the suspended Matt Elder. Captain Aaron Olson, A.J. Albers, Trey Benhart, and Nick Hinds made up Ciy’s back four from right to left. In the center of midfield, Ian Smith sat in front of the back line, leaving Brian Kallman to operate as a No. 8 and Martin Browne, Jr. as No. 10. Up top, Will Kidd and Isaac “Goose” Friendt flanked Connor Stevenson.
Duluth head coach Kyle Bakas ran his BlueGreens out in a similar shape. Tom Greensall played keeper behind a back four of Brandon Stemwedel, Gonnie Ben-Tal, Ben Phillips, and Ben Cullen. Valik Margolin held behind Tom Corcoran and Charlie Crane in the middle. Joe Watt and Sean Morgan bracketed dangerman Kyle Farrar up top.
The game’s first real chance on goal was produced by the BlueGreens in the third minute. An overlapping Cullen rounded his mark, getting into Minneapolis’ 18-yard box before flashing a shot low and wide across the face of goal from a narrow angle.
As both teams tried to find their touch on a slick field in the early going, Duluth threatened Minneapolis’ goal again in the 11th. Morgan hit a driven free kick in the direction of goal, and may have had the better of Runquist, but the ball took a deflection in traffic and went out of play for a corner.
Three minutes later it was Morgan again, dashing up Duluth’s right flank in an attempt to get on to a diagonal ball played out wide. Quick off his line, Runquist was able to smother Morgan’s effort.
Looking at only the game’s first three chances suggests it was all Duluth in the early going, and while the BlueGreens direct play did produce chances, Minneapolis did hold more of the ball.
The trouble for City was any time the Crows strung a combination of passes together, a Duluth player would interrupt the flow of play with a foul. Assigned with marking the pacy Friendt, who looked dangerous early, Duluth’s Cullen was the first player to be given a yellow card by referee Chris Ruska, receiving a caution in the 17th minute.
In the 25th, Ruska was unable to get his feet out of the way of a low, driven ball, and inadvertently launched a Duluth counter attack. Corcoran’s effort to chip Runquist from distance, as the keeper scrambled back towards his line, missed by only a few feet.
In addition to the stop-start nature of the first half, a disconnect between defense and attack was slowing down the Crows. At several points, Friendt, Stevenson, Kidd, Whitney Browne, and Kallman cluttered the same plane, leaving a large gap between what amounted to City’s front and back five.
Still, City grew into the first half as it progressed, and looked the better side in the run up to halftime.
In the 38th minute, Martin Browne nearly played Stevenson in on goal during a quick three-on-two counter, poking a clever ball in the direction of his center forward’s diagonal run. Only a timely interception from Corcoran prevented Stevenson from a showdown with Greensall.
City would threaten Duluth’s goal a couple more times to no avail. Then, moments before halftime, City struck.
Martin Browne, who set up over a free kick 25 yards out and in the center of the field, scored the game’s first goal.
“I tend to go over the wall based on where the keeper is standing,” said the elder of the Browne brothers. “[Greensall] was a little farther over to the right side, so I thought, ‘Maybe I can go over to the left.’ I got a decent hit on it, and a good goal.”
Ruska whistled for halftime moments after the mandatory and subsequent kickoff. At that point in the game, the referee had called 25 fouls and issued four yellow cards.
The second half picked up where the first had left off, though trailing by a goal, the BlueGreens had to open up a bit in search of an equalizer. Their plan was roughly the same: direct and often in search of Farrar. The forward had been fairly quiet in the first half, thanks largely in part to clever positioning from Benhart who held City’s line well.
In the 52nd minute, Bakas replaced Corcoran with Garga Nyuah, with the latter moving out wide. The winger’s pace asked a few questions of Minneapolis’ defense, and in the 61st minute, Totimeh countered by introducing Kevin Hoof for Hinds at left back. Whitney Browne was also subbed on for Friendt, the latter exiting the game with visible stud marks in his shin.
Even with fresh legs, Nyuah would get the better of Hoof in the 68th minute. Rounding his mark, Nyuah tried to square a ball for Watt inside City’s penalty area, but a sprawling Albers, at full stretch, got a foot to the ball the nick of time, and broke up the attack.
Tensions grew in the 73rd minute when Runquist and Watt came together after Runquist had come off his line to collect a bouncing ball with both arms. Albers interjected himself into the discussion between Watt and his keeper before being shepherded away by City’s captain, Olson.
In the 76th minute, Totimeh looked to close out the game, and brought in defender Nate Engel in place of Martin Browne, deploying the former as a holding midfielder. A few minutes later, Totimeh’s plans of simply seeing out the match were dealt a setback.
Off the ball, and behind the referee, ahead of a Crows free kick, there was a bit of back-and-forth in the wall. The end result was Whitney Browne delivering a short elbow or forearm to Ben-Tal, the force of which was apparently great enough that the 5-foot-8 winger was able to send the 6-foot-4 center back to ground.
After conferring with his assistant referee, Ruska showed Whitney Browne a red card.
“The red card was cheap,” said Whitney’s brother Martin. “[Ben-Tal] baited Whitney into getting a red. That shouldn’t have been the case. It’s one of those things, [Whitney] needs to grow up as well. He shouldn’t fall for stuff like that.”
The man advantage brought out Duluth’s most aesthetically-pleasing soccer of the afternoon.
“If you look at the last 10 minutes, there were a few fouls, but it wasn’t breaking the game up so much,” Bakas reflected. “[We built] a little bit of rhythm, I think.”
In spite of playing 10 vs. 11 and facing a BlueGreens side doing a better job of linking play, City nearly doubled its lead late. Recent substitution Javi Alcantara made use of some fancy footwork to get around his man at the edge of the box. Baring down on goal along the end line, Alcantara flashed a low ball across the mouth of goal. It proved just out of reach for a diving Kidd.
Three minutes of added time were announced.
Then, a Crows turnover. The the ball was quickly worked forward to Farrar, and the center forward put his teammate Lumsden in on goal.
“Kyle Farrar, our captain, I know that he likes to play [the ball] off his feet. So, I just continued my run — held it, so it wasn’t offside — and then I slotted it into the net,” said Lumsden.
“I’m coming back from an injury, so I knew I wasn’t going to start. My coach told me that I was going to score, so when I got a chance,” Lumsden paused, “I took it.”
The midfielder’s low shot struck the leg of Runquist, who had come off his line to reduce Lumsden’s shooting angle. But the shot was hit with enough power, that even after popping up off the keeper’s leg, it continued into the open goal, leveling the score at 1-1.
Moments later, the final whistle would be blown.
“It was a tale of two halves, as I saw it,” Totimeh noted. “We got very defensive in the second half. And that’s more of a mental thing with soccer players, protecting a [lead], that is. They had a better half in the second half than we did.”
After a hotly-contested match, views were mixed following the game.
“We dominated most of the game. We had a lot of chances. But away from home, we’ll take the point,” said Lumsden.
“I think it was a sloppy game, all around. I don’t think we got [the ball] down and played as much as we’d like to. We were probably a bit fortunate at the end, but I think with the hard work we put in, the [draw] probably seems about right,” said Farrar.
Bakas offered, “We had a few more clear-cut opportunities, but they were pounding us the first half, driving balls into the box. I think it is was a fair result, especially on the road.”
Meanwhile, City players and coaches were less satisfied following the late equalizer.
“This was a game we expected to win 3-1, 4-1 or 3-0, with the quality that we have in our squad,” stated Totimeh. “With soccer, one bad call, one made mistake can change everything. Getting a red card in the second half turned the tide against us.”
“Disappointed in a tie,” Martin Browne reflected. “Feels like a loss right now. Frustrating to tie that one.”
Offering a veteran’s perspective, Kallman said, “There’ll be some teams that are like that. Looking at [Duluth], they have a lot of Irish, English, whatever… European kind of guys. Maybe not the most technical guys. [They] just lumped the ball forward, competed, threw their body into it. A couple bad fouls. I think that’s to be expected in the league, and we have to show up and be ready to compete with that kind of stuff.”
On the physical nature of the contest, and in reference to the Bridge Derby soccer that can be found in Duluth, Farrar said, “We always like a derby. It was a tough game, but enjoyable.”
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