The Crows have had to leave cozy and atmospheric Edor Nelson Field because of construction at the adjacent Augsburg University Ice Arena (NPSL standards for amenities like locker rooms would not have been met during the construction).
They will be at Osseo Senior High School’s stadium this season and, though the location is hardly as central as Augsburg, it could have some advantages.
“We love Minneapolis and can’t wait to get back, of course,” said Club Chairman Dan Hoedeman, “but the Osseo staff have been welcoming and great to work with, this location allows us to introduce ourselves to a whole new set of fans, and, frankly, the field dimensions and how it plays are now the same as the other teams in our conference so there is some familiarity for the players there.”
As at Augsburg, there will be a food truck, concessions, and typical amenities.
“Without owning our own place, we are always going to have limitations,” continued Hoedeman, “and we hope to at least get into a long-term lease so we have a consistent place to call home.”
Tickets for home games are $8 online and $10 at the gate. Kids six and under are free.
The club voices a commitment to giving opportunities to local players, in contrast to other clubs in the conference that bring in players from across the country and internationally, and house them for the summer. MCSC’s approach has pros and cons, with one of the pros being admirable roster consistency that allows fans to build relationships with players spanning multiple seasons.
“That so many guys keep coming back to City is a testament to what we’re doing as a club,” said Hoedeman.
Fan favorite Martin Browne — a technically gifted midfielder from Brooklyn Park — is an important player for the Crows. A dead ball specialist, chants of “Marty Party” ring out every time he stands over a free kick, and his big smile and willingness to spend time with ball kids and fans after the game make him a perfect ambassador for “The People’s Club.”
Full back Charlie Adams of Stillwater is another returning player to keep an eye on. He was my pick as one of the top full backs in the conference this past season, and the converted midfielder has ability on the ball, vision, and a battling attitude that makes him a key player on the field. He will be a critical piece of the tactical puzzle.
Though the self-styled “Athletic Bilbao of the North” are laser-focused on Minnesota-based talent, that does not mean that recruiting isn’t a critical part of building an NPSL team. Especially with two other teams in the metro and nearby teams in Rochester and Duluth, the competition for talent is fierce. Minneapolis City, under the auspices of Sporting Director Jon Bisswurm, tend to boast top recruiting classes.
“Jon puts in the time,” said Hoedeman. “I always say he could be a Big 10 football recruiter with how hard he works, how he builds relationships with players, with their families, with their college coaches and all that. He loves it. He loves the guys. It’s a passion project for sure.”
Eden Prairie native Tommy Katsiyiannis, who finished his freshman season at Northwestern picking up Big 10 All-Freshman Team accolades, is a player to watch. The attacking midfielder was excellent with the Wildcats and has even been called into the U.S. national team camp in the past. While he will join the team late due to the Northwestern academic calendar, he has the potential to be among the very best creative midfielders in the North.
Augsburg University midfielder Lionel Vang is another sharp, tricky midfielder to keep an eye on. From Little Canada, Vang has already stepped up from MCSC’s U-23 team to start the Crows’ season opener, and it’s fair to expect to see him with the senior team again. All-MIAC and All-Region Third Team his sophomore year for the Auggies, Vang’s dribbling ability, low center of gravity, and willingness to take on a man make him an exciting player to watch.
After becoming the first amateur team from Minnesota to qualify for the U.S. Open Cup, beating Oakland County in an amateur qualifying match, the Crows were disqualified due to a rule violation around their move to the NPSL.
“That still hurts” said Hoedeman, “if only because our one request to U.S. Soccer after they denied our appeal was to change the rule and they didn’t — and El Farolito from San Francisco had the same thing happen to them this year.”
This year’s Open Cup qualifiers drew the Grumpy Cats away to Kansas City, Chicago, and Rochester, NY. Though the Kansas City side forfeited, MCSC still traveled over 3,000 miles only to fall in a hotly contested match against fellow NPSL-team Rochester River Dogz.
“The support that we got from our fans and the soccer community,” continued Hoedeman, referring to the fundraising campaign that sent MCSC to Rochester, “was incredible and unimaginably awesome.”
Last season, Minneapolis City averaged nearly 500 fans per game. That was, according to the club, a 40-percent increase from the year before. Despite the temporary move to Osseo, the club has seen another significant increase in season ticket sales and expects the gates to increase.
“It’s always hard to tell exactly where things will land,” said Hoedeman, “but season ticket sales — Memberships in our terms — are gangbusters and still selling and I think it will be another good year.”
The Citizens supporters group has arranged the “Murder Bus,” a bus that will take fans from the New Bohemia bar and restaurant on Lake Street in Minneapolis to the game and back, like the old Dethloon Express would take fans to Minnesota United games in Blaine. That is just another sign of the entrenched and growing support and interest around the club, and it shows no signs of abating.
Given the visibility of the club — its home opener will be the NPSL National Game of the Week — expectations are always high.
“We have top players, we have an organization that gets noticed, and we have a fanbase that expects,” commented Hoedeman. “We expect too. The truth is, we have a set of conference teams that play very hard, they are tough competition, and we have a target on our backs. There is nothing like taking down City. So we have to be that much better.”
In my own focus group of one, I have the Crows pegged to finish just outside of the playoff places. Duluth’s camaraderie, talent, and physicality make them the prohibitive favorites, and City did themselves no favors by thoughtlessly dropping two points against a very weak Sioux Falls team last weekend. Still, MCSC is an extremely talented group. It may actually be the most talented group in the conference, but to date has struggled to put it all together.
When pressed on that, Hoedeman responded, “that’s a little disrespectful to our competition. I won’t argue with you that our team is brimming with talent. We may be the only team in the conference that showcases our talent, but that does not mean that we are the only team brimming with talent. It’s a tough, competitive league. We still want to win it, mind.”
Minneapolis City’s home opener against Med City FC is this Saturday May 12 7:00pm at Osseo High School.
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