The BlueGreens kept up their winning ways on Wednesday in Duluth, turning up the pressure in the second half and scoring four goals to defeat basement-dwelling La Crosse Aris SC in the teams’ final meeting of the season.
The Wisconsin outfit did well enough to hold the hosts scoreless in the first half, but the defending champs broke the tie early in the second. The BlueGreens added three more for good measure en route to their third straight shutout win.
“Some of the personnel changes gave us a lift and, as far as I was concerned, it was really just a matter of time,” Duluth FC head coach Joel Person said. “In the first half, we created tons of chances to score, we just didn’t finish any of them, so we just stayed the course, made a few changes as far as personnel off the bench, and finally broke through that barrier.”
Duluth got on the board courtesy of Arad Lev Ari, who scored his first goal for the club just three minutes after the restart.
In the 72nd minute, the hosts finally doubled their lead when Joe Watt scored his third goal of the campaign to make it 2-0.
Sora Wakabayashi also opened his account for the BlueGreens with a goal in the 80th minute. The Japanese wing back picked up the ball in the offensive third and drove across the top of the box, then let loose a shot that tucked just inside the near post for 3-0.
With the game in hand, Leonardo Almeida added one more for the BlueGreens in the third minute of stoppage time. The hosts walked off with their fourth clean sheet of the season, and third in the last three matches.
“We’ve made progress,” Person said. “We’re getting more of those games at home rather than on the road, and I’ve had a chance to rotate some guys and rest some guys. Some guys are starting to get healthy again, so that’s helping as well. Our main challenge is finishing the chances we’ve created, because we’ve been creating a ton of chances to score, and aren’t scoring as much as we probably should be. But we’re making up for it by being very good defensively.”
With Minneapolis City dropping points for just the third time this season, the BlueGreens inched closer to the top of the table, but VSLT’s convincing win over Dakota Fusion still leaves Duluth outside the playoff picture in third place.
Luckily for the BlueGreens, they play three of the final four games of the season on home turf, and they also have one more shot at the league-leading Crows. Still, rather than looking too far ahead, Person plans to take it one step at a time.
“The good thing is that we do play Minneapolis City one more time, so we do have a chance to steal some points off them,” he said. “But we can’t get caught up too much in that kind of stuff. We just have to take it one game at a time and focus on the little details, and the results will take care of themselves. We’re not getting too overly concerned about what’s happening with opponents or what’s happening in three games. We’re getting ready for Sioux Falls Saturday.”
FiftyFive.One is now on Patreon. Do you like the independent coverage of soccer news from Minnesota and beyond that FiftyFive.One offers? Please consider becoming a patron.