After drawing four of the first five league matches this season, the BlueGreens seem to have hit their stride during the month of June, and the defending champions notched their fourth straight win over the weekend with a 4-0 victory against Sioux Falls Thunder FC.
“I thought it was actually one of our most complete games, just as far as our possession of the ball, our movement off the ball, and the chances we were creating,” Duluth FC head coach Joel Person said. “I thought it was very sharp tonight. It wore down a little bit in the second half, but we’re deep off the bench, so we were able to get some other guys in and there was really no drop off there. So all the way around, a team effort. I thought we did really well. And on a side note, that’s our fourth clean sheet in a row, so you cannot complain about that.”
The BlueGreens controlled the run of play for most of the game and scored a brace in each half to get the win. The two goals early in the first half helped set the tone for the rest of the match.
Dana Kowacheck dealt the first blow with a goal in the 14th minute. With Duluth pushing forward and the Sioux Falls keeper caught out of his goal, midfielder Joe Watt slipped the ball across to Kowacheck, who tapped the ball home into an empty net to make it 1-0.
The BlueGreens then doubled their lead on a direct free kick eight minutes later. After a simple yet deceptive run-up, the ball was touched back to Tom Corcoran, and the veteran midfielder blasted a curling effort past the keeper to the far post for 2-0.
Duluth continued apace in the second half, and another veteran leader stepped up to hand the hosts a third goal with just over 15 minutes remaining in the match.
Back on the attack, the Duluth midfield sent a long through ball over the top of the Thunder defense for Kyle Farrar, and the big striker collected the ball and calmly chipped it over the keeper. The shot struck the near post before rolling along and eventually over the goal line for 3-0.
Duluth’s young guns also had an impact throughout the match, and with under five minutes to play, Brooks Rice added the final tally for the BlueGreens. The reigning Alabama high school player of the year took over possession on the right side, then cut across the top of the area onto his left foot before sending a low shot past the keeper.
“It takes time for some of those younger players to get acclimated to this level and the speed of play, so it’s very exciting to see some of these young guys come along, because I’m trying to take a longer term view of this,” Person said. “This isn’t about just this season; it could be about next year or the year after that. Our young guys coming in and playing well really shows well for the future.”
The result brings Duluth to within a point of second-place VSLT and within three points of conference leader Minneapolis City with three matches remaining.
“Really we’re in an almost identical situation as last year,” Person said. “All we have to do is take care of our business, and I think the rest will sort itself out.”
The BlueGreens play two of their three final matches at home, and welcome Minnesota TwinStars on Wednesday.
Duluth then travels to face the Crows in a crucial matchup in Osseo this weekend.
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