The result may not have come as a surprise to many, but perhaps the margin of victory did. Aris suffered its ninth league defeat in as many games, and its largest loss since it last faced Minneapolis on June 7 in La Crosse when it lost 8-0. Rebounding (on a relative level), Aris followed that defeat with a 3-1 loss to second-place Dakota Fusion FC and 3-2 loss to first-place Med City FC, but was then drubbed by Minneapolis again.
“We’re not experienced in the middle,” said Aris head coach Greg Saliaras. “I don’t think anyone in the North [Conference] has as strong a midfield as [Minneapolis] do. When you get a young and inexperienced team and you match them up with someone who knows how to move the ball around, you make them look like boys chasing men.”
That lopsided spectacle began early as Ben Wexler opened scoring in the game’s second minute. Connor Stevenson, given the start on the right wing, played a diagonal ball over Aris’ back line, finding the midfielder in stride on a run down the center of the field. After collecting the pass, Wexler dribbled to the keeper’s left, then rolled the ball into the far post.
Evident their forward line was quicker than the opposing back line, the Crows were comfortable possessing the ball at midfield while looking to release teammates as they attempted to time their runs into the final third.
“I was looking for sharp movement up top,” noted Minneapolis head coach Adam Pribyl. “I was looking for players to get in behind the defense so we can start spreading guys out. We have a lot of guys who like the ball at their feet, who like to check-to. So what we saw out there was guys listening to what we’ve talked about and applying it.”
Stevenson initiated the second goal of the game in the 13th minute, switching the field to Wexler, who then floated the ball to the back post where it was side-footed into the net by Stockman-Willis.
The forward would score his second goal of the game in the 34th minute, played through on goal by winger Whitney Browne. Cutting in from the left, Stockman-Willis finished over Aris keeper Gustavo Siqueira’s right shoulder, pulling the ball back inside the near post.
Seven minutes later the forward would complete his hat trick. Stevenson, who had worked the ball down the right flank, tried to pull the ball back for Stockman-Willis. A miscommunication between Aris’ keeper and center back led to a scuffed clearance which was thumped into the back of the net by Stockman-Willis on the edge of the six-yard box.
“I try to provide that extra, dynamic movement up top that creates more space for the people underneath,” said Stockman-Willis. “First half was very well done, with our interchangeability; getting the ball out wide and into tight corners. We didn’t just get the result, I think we earned the result.”
Stockman-Willis would tally his fourth goal of the game 12 minutes after the restart. Brought down while attempting to dribble around Aris’ defense in the 18-yard box, the forward converted the subsequent penalty kick to give the Crows a 5-0 lead.
Taken off in favor of forward Tim Wills, Stockman-Willis received an ovation from the home crowd.
In addition to Wills, and several other players rotated into the game, the second half marked the return of Martin Browne, Jr. who had been dealing with a groin injury. The midfielder looked comfortable in the run of play and confirmed after the game he felt good.
Aaron Olson capped the scoring in the 74th minute after a deflected pass floated into the penalty area at the same time the City full back arrived. Challenged by substitute keeper Seth Lewison, Olson was able to glance a header into the open net.
After the one-sided affair, both teams were turning their attention to their remaining fixtures.
“The nice thing about it, is we match up well with some of the other teams [in the conference],” Saliaras said. “June is usually kinder to us than May as the team comes together, and by July we’re usually hitting our stride. By then, we always have the spoiler role, taking points from teams we’re not supposed to.”
“The kids, they don’t give up. They keep on fighting. That’s all I can ask from them.”
“We’re definitely trying to keep the pedal to the floor,” said Stockman-Willis. “The conference is tight. We knew we had to build some momentum going into Friday, and I definitely feel good getting four goals.”
On the above, when asked if any of his charges had played their way into consideration to start in Friday’s game away to Duluth FC, Pribyl answered with a succinct, “Miles.”
“Friday is going to be big,” said Pribyl. “So today was about getting the guys in form that haven’t been in form, and getting the guys minutes who haven’t gotten minutes. Hopefully increase the level of play, and hope that carries forward.”
“Travelling is tough, travelling and playing same-day is tough, but we’re going to go out and try to get a result.”
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