For the Crows the result was not a surprise, though the margin of victory may have been. The defeat was La Crosse’s heaviest of the season, and came on the back of a narrow 2-1 loss to VSLT FC that saw what would have been a game-tying goal ruled off side in the game’s final moments.
Aris saw four players depart its roster this week — some quitting, some removed from the team — and was trying to regroup ahead of a meeting with a Minneapolis side in need of a victory.
For many outside Southeast Wisconsin, little is known about Aris FC, as the team rarely engages fans on social media. In that void, the club has become known for frequently ending up on the receiving end of lopsided scorelines.
Things make more sense after seeing Aris play. On Wednesday, the club ran out a roster of players predominantly born in the mid-to-late ’90s.
“It’s a young team, there are going to be mistakes,” said Aris head coach Greg Saliaras. “But hopefully it will be a developing tool for them. A lot of [our players] are trying to get into colleges and universities, and this is going to give them an idea of the competition they’re going to face. Hopefully we’re preparing them for that.”
On his team’s performance on the evening, Saliaras offered, “We were shuffling the team a bit. I think they were a little bit timid in the first half. Today was a bad result. We’re usually not that bad. We were a bit unprepared, and that’s on me.”
There were a few bright spots for Aris. Despite conceding six goals, keeper Gustavo Siqueira made several impressive saves.
“The first three goals were all beautiful shots,” noted Saliaras. “I’m not sure anyone could have done anything with them, especially the first one.”
Additionally, midfielder Ivan Khamenka looked Aris’ best player on the evening. When La Crosse was able to advance the ball through midfield, it was often through Khamenka.
“Ivan is a wonderful player,” Saliaras said. “He’s actually going to Greece for a couple tryouts in August. We’re trying to push him toward a couple of the professional teams we have relationships with, there.”
As for City’s night, a rundown of the game’s goals is as follows…
7′ – Friendt, cutting in from the wing, curled a shot from outside the 18-yard box into the far upper corner of the goal.
9′ – Martin Browne Jr. played his brother Whitney in on goal, and the latter slotted the ball between Siqueira and the near post.
12′ – Pushing forward, right back Charlie Adams received the ball and drilled a shot into the upper corner of the goal from outside the penalty area.
29′ – Friendt pounced on a loose ball in La Crosse’s half, wove his way through traffic, and rolled the ball into the corner of the net after shooting from the top of the D.
45′ – Connor Stevenson was played into space, and could have loosed a shot on frame, but unselfishly squared the ball for Ian Smith. The holding midfield’s run into the box was rewarded with a tap-in.
58′ – City was awarded a penalty following contact between Adams and Aris defender Lionel Karyea, and the decision drew protests from the home crowd. Siqueira got down to his right to save Friendt’s initial effort, but the Crows winger jumped and bundled in the rebound. A short scuffle followed as the two players untangled themselves from one another.
66′ – Whitney Browne was played through on goal, and squared the ball for second-half substitute Ben Wexler. The attacking midfielder drove the ball into the back of the net, and past substitute Aris keeper Seth Lewison.
82′ – Whitney Browne should have scored his second goal of the night, ripping a shot across frame, but a strong, diving right hand from Lewison denied the winger his brace.
90′ – Midfielder Samuel Ruiz Plaza, subbed on in the 54th minute to make his first appearance of the season for the Crows, capped the evening with a goal taken from the edge of the box.
“We know what teams are about; there’s no hiding in this conference. Greg is trying to do something different with his team,” said Minneapolis head coach Adam Pribyl. “We had to get a result, and frankly, because we’re near the bottom of the table, goal differential matters.”
On deploying 2016 Premier League of America West Division Best XI full back Abdallah Bah as a central midfielder, Pribyl stated, “Bah is a really talented guy. I’ve been using him more and more at center midfield in training. I’ve seen him be very effective there; he has a great motor. I was going to get him in there no matter who we played tonight.”
“We were just trying to see the ball hit the back of the net, get some goals,” noted Smith. “Trying to get that confidence in front of the net going forward. We worked on some attacking things, and a bit of defensive shape as well.”
As to how the victory positioned the Crows ahead of Friday’s home game against the Sioux Falls Thunder, Smith offered, “It’s good. Everyone is confident. Positive vibes going in to a tough game Friday. But obviously, in front of our home fans, we want to give them three points.”
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