Minneapolis had learned of its fate prior to kickoff, with Dakota Fusion having already defeated the Minnesota TwinStars earlier that afternoon, ending the Crows’ playoff hopes.
The Fusion’s victory meant Med City would need a win over Minneapolis to advance, but held scoreless for a second-straight home game, the Mayhem would also end their season on a down note.
Both teams made use of a conference-standard 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation. One notable change for the Crows was the return of 2016 Premier League of American West Division Best XI recipient Abdallah Bah to left back, where he’d been a fixture for the Crows the previous season.
Flat best described the game’s opening minutes, as both teams worked their way into the contest and traded half-chances.
The game’s first real scoring chance came in the 16th minute, as Matias Pazos Dumic sent a cross in the direction of Midhat Mujic, but the ball sailed just over the Mayhem forward’s head before being punched by Crows goalkeeper Matt Elder.
Minneapolis would take the lead a minute later.
Set-piece specialist Martin Browne, Jr. sent in a corner kick which was cleared back to Browne. The midfielder poked the ball with the outside of his foot, playing a diagonal pass to Will Kidd. Kidd, receiving the ball inside Med City’s penalty area, cut the ball back to the penalty spot for Friendt, and the Indiana University sophomore drove the ball into the far upper corner of the goal, leaving Med City keeper Joan Carles Perez Castro with no chance to intervene.
“I saw it filter back through, and I decided to step out to the top of the box,” said Friendt. “Will had a great pass back out to me, and I finished and hit it.”
The Mayhem came close to leveling the score in the 20th minute. Minneapolis center back Trey Benhart broke up a Med City attack with a strong tackle, but in doing so was pulled out of position as the Medics recovered the ball. Jake Turnbull slipped ball forward for Mujic inside the 18-yard box, but the center forward’s effort was blasted high over the crossbar.
With Med City pushing for an equalizer, play opened up notably, resulting in an end-to-end contest on an 88-degree evening.
Trying to take advantage of the space afforded by the Mayhem’s search for a goal, Minneapolis put Med City under heavy pressure from the 30th to 40th minutes. Attacking midfielder Miles Stockman-Willis had a pair of goal-scoring opportunities whistled away on close offside calls.
Then, surely owning to the heat, the pace of the game tapered off for the final minutes of the first half.
The Crows got back on their collective front foot after the resumption of play. Friendt forced a pair of saves from Perez Castro in the 53rd and 55th minutes, first lacing a drive near post which the keeper parried with two hands on the dive, then weaving his way through traffic and attempting to roll the ball past Perez Castro, only to be denied by a outstretched left foot.
Elsewhere, in Duluth, the BlueGreens had opened up a multi-goal lead over Sioux Falls, raising the stakes for the Mayhem from needing a draw to needing a victory.
Med City began to assert itself in the final half hour. In the 64th minute, the ball popped out of a crowd following a tackle, and was scooped up by Mujic as the forward dashed into the penalty area. One-on-one with Elder from a narrow angle, Mujic was disappointed with his effort as the ball rolled slowly wide of the far post.
In the 66th minute, right back Javier Gomez fed Pazos Dumic in the corner, who pulled the ball back for Ayo Adebayo. The second-half substitute attempted to redirect the ball with a behind-the-back touch, and the ball was headed for the far post, but slowly enough that the Minneapolis defense could react and clear.
The final 20 minutes saw a drop in the pace of play, with the heat again taking its toll.
Med City managed a few half-chances coming from corners and free kicks, but couldn’t find the head or feet of Mayhem players with its set pieces.
An 88th-minute corner swung in by Pazos Dumic just missed the head of Claudio Rivadeneira at the back post, but even if the forward had connected, the Mayhem would have needed a second goal to extend its NPSL season.
Both clubs ended their inaugural seasons in the North Conference on 25 points, directly beneath the two playoff positions in the conference table.
“In a 14-game season, there are no moral victories,” said Jon Bisswurm, who handled head coaching duties for Minneapolis City. “Today was more a statement of what happens when we all buy in, we have the numbers, and guys play hard.”
“Before we were worried about preseason rankings, and all the bullshit. And not about how to play soccer, how to adjust, and how to win games. Now, we’ve done that. We’ve course-corrected, and we’ve finished the season strong — outside of TwinStars, who seem to only come to play against us.”
“We have to look at how we build our roster,” Bisswurm concluded. “We had depth in places. I think we interchanged things too many times. We have to start our system early, build it, and supplement it with the guys that arrive later.”
“It’s hard to take right now,” added Browne. “We had it in our hands and we let it slip. But it’s good to go out with a victory.”
On the Med City sideline, fans mingled on the field after the final whistle, and players made it a point to individually thank head coach Luke Corey and owner Frank Spaeth.
Rumors are that the club will break even financially in its first year. With 574 fans turning out of the Mayhem’s home finale, if and when final numbers are tallied, Med City’s average home attendance should be in the neighborhood of a conference-best 600 fans per game.
“To be honest, this is one thing I’m definitely okay bragging about: there is no fan base in this conference like our fan base,” said center back Moe Tageldin. “There’s no organization — in the back room, the marketing, our sponsorship — like our team. If you’re in town here, you drive around, the [coverage on the] radio, [in] the newspaper… I told Frank, ‘The organization and your management is second to none.'”
When asked about the end to the Mayhem’s season, Corey offered, “As you saw, in the last few games, our scoring dried up. I think that’s a result of everyone playing tighter defense as we were all fighting for a playoff spot. We couldn’t get any of those garbage goals you need to win games.”
“We ended up a few points short of a playoff spot, but overall we have to be proud of what we did this season. Being a first-year team, not having any experience here, I think our guys performed phenomenally. If anything, it’s a learning experience, and we’ll come back even stronger next season.”
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