The first week of NPSL North Conference action is in the bag and I am happy to report that, in true expert fashion, every single one of my predictions came true.
The downside to calling all of the games correctly is that, though it took an early red card in the first game and a late, late winner in the last to make it all come together, there might be a level of predictability in this conference. Hopefully there are surprises still to come but in the meantime let’s dig in to what we learned.
VSLT FC 1, Minneapolis City 2
1. VSLT are good enough to challenge for the playoffs. Every player is bought into the system, a low block and lightning-fast counter-attack, and the personnel, like Edi Buro and Angel Riera in midfield and a number of tricky forward options, to make it work. More than a few teams will be hit for goals when they least expect it.
2. Minneapolis City have grit. Down to 10 men at the 22 minute mark, 7 minutes of added time played in the first half, injuries to Ian Smith and Miles Stockman-Willis and the only time they were scored on was when they were down to 9 men because of injury and neither referee nor opponent stopped play. No matter, they went and scored two short-handed goals. If you are looking for what “winning mentality” means, you’ve found it.
Sioux Falls Thunder 1, Dakota Fusion 3
1. Sioux Falls won’t embarrass themselves, especially if they don’t ever play another game at that open grass field, and I expect that they will improve over the course of the season, this was their first-ever game after all, but no doubt this club is quietly happy that Aris is in the division so they can avoid the wooden spoon.
2. Fusion have made some late roster additions it seems, with forward Jade Johnson signing on in the days between my blog post lamenting him not playing and the first game, which he scored in. Fusion just might be better than I expected.
Med City 4, La Crosse Aris 0
1. It is hard to learn a lot from this one, as Aris was so limp an opponent that it was more a glorified training match than anything else. However, something like 1,500 fans turned up to watch the glorified training match down in Rochester and that is a hell of a result.
2. Aris will go another year without winning a game.
TwinStars 1, Duluth 1
1. TwinStars are a handy team who keep the ball well but seem uninterested, in a peak Arsenal type of way, in actually trying to score goals and their goal Saturday had as much luck as intention to it. Until they decide to go forward, my prediction of a fourth place finish for the Dragons seems about right.
2. It’s going to be a wild year on Lake Superior. It took until 90’+ but the equalizer did arrive for Kyle Farrar and Duluth. A draw seemed a fair result between two teams with differing styles and opposing teams will have noticed both how dangerous Duluth were when Farrar and Sean Morgan linked up, and how ropey things looked at the back when the defense was attacked with pace.
It is far too early to make any generalizations beyond all the generalizing that I have already done on this blog, but we learn lot more this weekend. Med City and Fusion face off and that will tell us a lot, as will the trading of opponents between TwinStars, who take on VSLT, and Duluth, who take on Minneapolis City.
Will there be drama? I can only hope, but more than that I hope for better streaming video options because last weekend was pretty tough and it’s all about me.