MINNEAPOLIS Andy Lorei turned in a man of the match performance last Friday, scoring twice as Minneapolis City secured a confident 3-0 victory over Minnesota United Reserves in the first-ever meeting between the two Twin Cities clubs.
The Crows remained undefeated on the young season, winning their second straight at home in what was their most complete performance to date. While momentum swung back and forth between the two sides at different points on Friday evening, it was City that created the majority of scoring chances on the evening, putting the Reserves to the sword thrice.
The hosts trotted out a familiar 4-5-1/4-3-3 with Matt Elder keeping his place in goal. UCLA-commit Duncan Werling had rejoined the team and was available for selection, but head coach Keith Kiecker opted to keep the unbeaten Elder between the posts. The same back four that started against Croatian Eagles the previous weekend returned, with Aaron Olson and Abdallah Bah bracketing Nate Engel and captain Trey Benhart. The Crows’ midfield triangle was comprised of A.J. Albers, Samuel Ruiz Plaza and Ben Wexler, in order of proximity to their back line. Up top, Matthew Gweh and Isaac “Goose” Friendt flanked targetman Andy Lorei.
The guests lined up like-for-like. Aaron Perez was in goal, playing behind leftback Midhat Mujic, centerbacks Grant Bell and Sam Mann, and rightback Andres Jaramillo. In the center of the pitch, Daniel O’Brien played as the holding midfielder behind Klenton Miles Stockman-Willis and attacking midfielder Rodrigo Galvan Yanez. Abbai Habte started on the left wing with Whitney Browne his opposite, and Javier Alacantara at center forward.
A notable addition to City’s bench was technical director and elder statesman Alan Merrick, who made 131 league appearances for Stoke City in the English first division, as well as 115 league appearances for the Minnesota Kicks in the original NASL.
Both sets of co-head coaches had expressed a desire to keep the ball on the ground, and neither team disappointed. While both teams played attractive soccer from the start, It was City that seized the initiative from the open whistle and had the run of play in the beginning of the match. The Crows picked up exactly where they left off against Croatian Eagles, with Friendt beating his man one-on-one in the box and winning a penalty.
Lorei stepped up to the spot, then fired low and hard to Perez’ right, slotting the ball into the corner of the to give City a 1-0 lead in the 5th minute.
Galvan Yanez tried to quickly level the score in the 10th minute, after deciding Elder was a bit too far off his line. The attacking midfielder loosed a speculative 40 yard effort, but Elder was able to retreat and collect with a step to spare.
Galvan Yanez would have another chance 3 minutes later when Browne played him through into the 18 yard box, but the midfielder fired low and wide of the far post.
In the 20th minute, Wexler was put through on goal, but Perez came out quickly. Making himself big, the Reserves’ keeper was able to block Wexler’s initial shot Wexler received another chance when the rebound fell to him, but sent the ball over the crossbar with his second effort.
Having weathered sustained pressure after only conceding once, the Reserves grew into the match and began to assert themselves in the middle of the first half.
Browne, once again playing the role of creator, drove the ball into the right edge of the 18-yard box, then pulled the ball back for Alacantra. Unfortunately for the Reserves, the forward’s shot from the center of the box went wide of Elder’s left post.
With the Reserves having more success building their attack, City nearly struck back on the counter with a nice bit of combination play in the 32nd minute. Albers chested a longball to Ruiz Plaza, who one-touched it back to Albers. Albers then played the ball through to Friendt who was making an incisive diagonal run. Frident’s speed not only carried him past the Reserves’ back four, but also the ball, overrunning an opportunity to take a shot on Perez from inside the 18-yard box.
The Reserves then threated City’s goal a minute later, with Jaramillo swinging in a nice cross from the Reserves’ right flank. The ball found Habte in the middle of the box, but the winger’s uncontested header was sent wide of Elder’s left post.
Galvan Yanez would place a pair of hard shots on goal in the 35th and 42nd minutes, but Elder proved up to the task on both.
The Reserves continued to hold the run of play immediately after halftime, but neither side managed to create many chances in the first 15 minutes following the resumption of play.
Then, in the 52nd minute, Lorei found himself around 25 yards out with the ball and his back to goal. In the moment, Lorei seemed to tire on waiting for a teammate to make a run off his position, and made a quick turn towards goal. Playing through a foul, Lorei was able to get by his mark and square up a shot on target, beating Perez to the near post on a hop and doubling City’s lead.
“Taking that penalty the first couple minutes, and scoring, thats big for confidence. Once I hit that, I thought, ‘Alright, its going to be a good day.’ said Lorei. “My legs were there. It was the fittest Ive felt.”
Lorei was presented an opportunity for a hat trick in the 54th, when fancy dribbling from Gweh down City’s left flank allowed the winger to get into the box, then cut the ball back for Lorei. But Lorei’s effort flashed wide of the near post.
While City’s second goal had a notable impact on the momentum of the game, the Reserves continued to create chances.
Jaramillo, again crossing from the Reserves’ right flank, found Browne in the 18-yard box. Browne was able to trap and shoot the ball, but his 60th minute effort sailed high.
Browne would have another chance to shoot on City’s goal from inside the penalty area in the 64th. Played through by Habte, Brown’s touch took the ball around a diving Elder, but Brown’s resulting shota hurried oneonly billowed the side netting of an open goal after shooting just wide of the near post.
Catching City in transition in the 70th minute, the Reserves found themselves with numbers going forward. Browne used the runs of his teammates to create room to shoot from the top of the arc, but Elder made and impressive, diving save low to his left to deny the Reserves a goal.
Browne’s shot on target would prove the Reserves’ last dangerous chance of the match. Both teams introduced a number of substitutions down the stretch, with the Crows’ bench asserting itself to greater effect.
A pair of subs would seal the match for City on the counter in the 89th, when midfielder Ryan Cammarota played winger Isaac Forsgren through on goal. Forsgren, cutting in from out wide, slotted the ball past Perez to put the game beyond reach.
After City’s victory in its home debut against Croatian Eagles, Kiecker stated he felt City was beginning to scratch the surface of what it could do this season. Against the Reserves, fans got to see signs of what Kiecker was expecting, as the Crows turned in their most cohesive and impressive attacking performance to date.
“It feels really good. We put together 15 minute increments of really good play. We definitely have to work on our finishing. The game could have been 3-0 early if we had put away our chances. We had four or five chances within the first 15 minutes because we caught them on their heels,” stated Kiecker. “Once they settled in, we were on our heels for about 15 minutes, and then we took the game back in the second half. Big up to our subs for coming into a tough game, getting another goal for us, and holding down the clean sheet. It was a complete team effort today.”
Though it did not produce any goals, the combination of Bah and Gweh on City’s left flank put the Reserves’ defense under heavy pressure throughout the game.
“It helps we used to play together when we were 14 or 15, around that age. Ive always played [fullback] and hes always been on my left side,” said Bah. “It works out perfectly.”
In addition to Bah and Gweh, much of the Crows’ attack went through Lorei, who used his hold-up play to serve as a hub for City’s play in the final third.
“With Mac [Gweh] and Goose [Friendt], Ive probably played six maybe seven times with them, and maybe three games. So, theres not a lot of chemistryI think you could see it there, as we were starting to get something,” said Lorei. “That was the first game I felt like, ‘Okay, when he gets the ball, I know what hes doing. When I get the ball, he knows what Im going to do.’ It just takes some time, and you could really feel it this game.”
Looking ahead to City’s road trip this weekend, during which the Crows will play two matches, in two neighboring states in the span of two days, reactions varied.
“The beauty of college kidstheyre built for this stuff. It shouldnt be too hard. Were going to have to be strategic about who starts what game, and how many minutes guys get, because we want to keep fresh legs,” said Kiecker. “We have seven subs every game, and were going to use them all, as weve done the last two games. We have so much talent on our bench, its kind of hard to figure out whos starting and whos not.”
Bah offered, “Not looking forward to the travel, but looking forward to playing and winning.”
And Lorei, one of City’s veteran players, opined, “I think you have to try to embrace it. That second game is going to be tough. Make sure we win the first game, then anything out of the second game, if we can make sure we dont lose, thats a bonus.”
City will face Cedar Rapids Rampage United on Friday night, then travel to Milwaukee for a rematch with Croatian Eagles on Saturday.
Daniel Mick’s image gallery: http://www.danielmickcreative.com/MPLS-City-SC-v-Minnesota/n-TcHDnj/
Jeremy Olson’s image gallery: http://www.digitalgopher.com/Sports/Minneapolis-City-SC/MplsCitySc-v-MNUFC-Reserves-16/
MINNEAPOLIS CITY: Matt Elder, Aaron Olson, Nate Engel, Trey Benhart, Abdallah Bah, A.J. Albers, Samuel Ruiz Plaza, Ben Wexler, Isaac “Goose” Friendt, Matthew Gweh, Andy Lorei
SUBS: Ian Smith, Will Kidd, Max Stiegwardt, Kevin Hoof, Ryan Cammarota, Isaac Forsgren
MINNESOTA UNITED RESERVES: Aaron Perez, Andres Jaramillo, Grant Bell, Sam Mann, Midhat Mujic, Daniel O’Brien, Klenton Miles Stockman-Willis, Rodrigo Galvan Yanez, Whitney Browne, Abbai Habte, Javier Alacantara
SUBS: Oblayon Nyemah Jr., Skylar Schulz, Babtunde Oyekan, Daniel Cisneros, Chris Aksoz, Brad Whitsitt
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