GLENDALE, Wisc. — Minneapolis City SC played its first-ever competitive match on May 21, 2016 against the Milwaukee Bavarians. The contest ended in a scoreless draw, and the Crows were perhaps the side more-fortunate to have escaped with a point. On Saturday, City returned to Hartland Value Fund Stadium for the first time in seven years. Dennis Mensah and Patrick Coleman traded goals just before the half, and the two sides played to a 1-1 tie, that this time around, was a better reflection of the run of play.
Bavarians seized the initiative in the first 10-20 minutes before City grew into the game. Helping keep the score line level until the team found its feet was City veteran Nick Hutton. Throwing his body into tackles and headers, the 32 year-old right back inserted himself into the action all along the wing.
“I was impressed how much he can move up and down the field, still,” said Crows keeper Evan Siefken. “He actually played a great game. I mean, outside back, at that age, has to be killer. So, I don’t know if he’ll be walking around much tonight or not.”
Siefken, for his own part, also turned in a strong performance. In addition to stopping a one-on-one for the second game in a row, the young keeper’s command of his area was a boon to a Crows team that had a bit of difficultly defending set pieces, early in the season.
“Once I see the ball, if I think I can get it, I call it,” Siefken said. “That’s about all that goes through my mind, I guess. If I think I’m getting there, I’m going to go for it.”
Propped up by a resolute defense, City would take the evening’s first lead just two minutes before the half.
“There was a great diagonal-ball. Darley [Florvil] took a touch. I made a good run in the box,” recalled Mensah. “Defender was not looking behind his shoulder, so I went behind the shoulder he wasn’t looking over, and headed the ball into the net.”
That combination — with Florvil a late addition to the Crows’ roster due to an extended scholastic calendar at Northwestern University — might be one worth keeping an eye on for Crows fans.
“Him getting the ball, looking for passes, taking guys on. Heads up, making good runs for me, switching in and out of the No. 10 and me going to the wing,” said Mensah, on playing alongside Florvil. “Just those little changes to confuse the defenders — which was what led to the goal. It’s easy to play with a guy like that. Being on the same page all the time, that’s really good chemistry. That’s what we need up top.”
The joy from that lovely link-up play was quickly tempered, however, when Patrick Coleman answered back with a header of his own in the 45th minute.
Not only was conceding just before the half particularly frustrating for City, but in spite of dogged efforts from both teams in the second half, Coleman’s proved the last goal of the evening.
“The one goal we allowed was just one miscue, and that’s what a lot of the goals have been, lately,” reflected Siefken. “It’s going to come down to cleaning up our mistakes as we move into Canada next week, and hopefully try to get some results up there.”
Head coach Carl Craig’s side did their best to create chances over the game’s final 45 minutes. Forward Hakeem Morgan drilled a 64th-minute shot — just missing the near upper-corner — that was still climbing as it passed the frame. And three minutes later, centerback Aidan O’Driscoll headed on a long throw from Hutton, while the former’s back was to goal, that bounced just wide of the far post.
But the hosts created a few dangerous chances, themselves, and most on the Minneapolis side agreed that a draw wasn’t an undeserved outcome.
“My style is to say, ‘Here’s some ideas.’ We’ll run through them in training, but ultimately, here’s some solutions to the potential problems you’ll face. Here are the principles, apply them.” Craig said. “So, it’s not, ‘You will always do this.’
“We can move the ball, especially on a big pitch. But the game management isn’t always the greatest for some reason. Someone’s told them if you have more than three passes then it’s gotta go up the park as fast as it can. Where, a lot of energy’s wasted because we become impatient and humping the ball up the field.
“Working-class heroes, I think. That was a blue-collar performance. Evan had a good game, again, tonight. Scotty’s done a good job, as well. Dennis had a good game. I find it hard to single anyone out tonight, in all honesty, because we played guys out of position, and we were barking up the side. We’re not where we need to be, they know that, but what a lovely group they are to work with. Couldn’t ask more from them at this point.”
Exhausted, postmatch, Both Siefken and Mensah took pride in the Crows’ fight.
“I was relieved,” Siefken said of hearing the final whistle. “Felt like we were running out of gas down the stretch. I was a little concerned about that. But just happy to get a point. Wish it was three. Conceding late at the end of the first half was a real bummer, but I was proud of how we came out in the second half and battled.”
“This team has never, ever quit,” added Mensah. “We always keep fighting despite the results. We’re going to show up every day, and show the other team that we can play football, and we deserve to be in this league as well.”
Located only a couple hundred feet from Hartland Value Fund Stadium is the Bavarian Bierhaus. When the final whistle blew around 9:30 p.m., Craig and assistant coach Peter Rivard made a beeline ahead of a 10:00 p.m. last call.
Strolling by the Bavarians’ trophy case, inside, Rivard took stock of the six National Amateur Cup championships on display.
“It’s one of the legendary clubs in America, just bottom-line,” Rivard said. “It’s exciting to play against them. Even better to get points. Unique opportunity for the players to come to place like this. Nineteen-twenty-nine was when the club was started? Which means they’re on the verge of 100 years? I think that’s a pretty big deal.”
Craig, holding a liter pour of lager, surveyed the hall and added his two cents.
“This is what I would like us to be; our version of this model,” he said. “I don’t know if we’d have a place as big as this, but it’s definitely a community place, and that’s what we’re about, I believe. The fact that you can have a beer — have a natter with some strangers on a Saturday night after a game of football — couldn’t be better.”
Behind him, general manager Matt VanBenschoten, in defense of City’s good name, was diligently policing which members of City’s young roster were served beer. A group of players had gathered to watch the Minneapolis City Futures prevail in a 14-round penalty-kick shootout over St. Croix Legends in the UPSL playoffs, via a handheld Instagram live stream. Of the dozen or so, only Hutton and centerback Wes Lorrens — a graduate student at St. Thomas — joined Craig and Rivard in a round.
But that didn’t dampen the celebration when Joe Swallen’s penalty went in, giving the Futures a 13-12 shootout victory and sending the Rookery to the UPSL national playoffs.