SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Two matches prior, in the dying minutes of Minneapolis City SC’s 3-1 home defeat to the Thunder Bay Chill, Steevie Lamarre lost his cool. Throwing an arm, high, the forward was sent off for hands-to-face. Suspended for last-Saturday’s game at Milwaukee Bavarians, Lamarre watched his teammates play to a 1-1 draw from the stands.
“Immediately after that [first Thunder Bay] game, I saw him that night. We live about a block away from each other,” said Wes Lorrens, a teammate of Lamarre’s at the University of St. Thomas. “He was more ticked off than I’ve seen him in a long time, and it wasn’t about his performance. It was about his decision to not control his emotions. I think we all need to be checked up, once in a while, to keep rising and keep doing better.”
As the opening whistle sounded at Tbaytel Field on Friday evening, Lamarre was on the Crows’ bench. When the final whistle sounded 90 minutes later, he was the hero of the day. Tallying a pair of second-half goals — the latter in added-time — Lamarre secured a huge point on the road for the Crows, helping to snap first-place Thunder Bay’s eight-game winning streak.
“I feel like I owe the team something since I let my emotions get the best of me,” Lamarre said, postgame. “Get a red card, wasn’t able to play the last game, I feel like I let my coach and my teammates down. It was on my mind leading up to this game; this is my chance to make up for what happened last game. I’m going to show the guys I’m not going to put them in that position.
“My whole mindset going into this game was to score, to make up for that red card. [I] got two, against an undefeated team. It’s a great feeling.”
Lamarre would get his opportunity for redemption in the 36th minute, subbing in when his close-friend Jameson Charles left the game after aggravating a nagging groin-injury. Coach Peter Rivard said the move was precautionary, given the number of games the Crows have in the next 10 days, and that Charles is questionable to play on Sunday in Winnipeg.
Stepping in as a No. 8, Lamarre made an impact even before getting on the scoresheet.
“He did a really nice job of understanding his role and being connected to [No. 6] Scott [Heinen], making it hard, defensively, for Thunder Bay to get through there,” said coach Peter Rivard. “That connection grew in the second half. They did a really nice job of playing down the right, more.”
Trailing by two goals after Hugo Tavares (32’) and Karim Pare (50’) had scored for Thunder Bay, a 55th-minute attack from the right side of Minneapolis’ formation provided a way back into the game. It started when the Crows won an attacking-third free kick.
“I was asking my teammate, Hakeem [Morgan], to take the free kick,” Lamarre said, with a bit of cheek, given Morgan has taken most of the Crows’ free kicks this season. “When someone’s got the conference to step up to the ball in a moment like that, you let ‘em. I was going to get in the box and wait for any rebounds.
“When Hakeem’s shot hit the wall, the deflection came to me. I followed through and put the ball in the back of the net.”
In a season of disappointing results, it has often seemed like bounces have only fallen in City’s opponents’ favor. Finding a way back into the game, via a deflected free kick, might well have felt for Crows fans like cashing a karmic check. But for Minneapolis’ players and coaches, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“I think a big thing with us is not really luck, but just getting a number of chances,” said Lorrens, who wore the captain’s armband on the evening. “We had one shot in the first half, and the second half, we had four or five on goal. So, it’s just putting the ball where it needs to be, and hoping maybe for a little bit of luck that it will go in.
“The most-important piece of all was, after the first half, when we went into the locker room. Instead of a team getting angry at each other, and start blaming each other, we just went in… The coaches didn’t have to say much. It was all player-led. And just, ‘This is what we need to do. This is what we need to work on. And, keep fighting.’”
Trailing 2-1 late, more adversity was heaped onto the Crows’ shoulders when center back Curtis Wagner was shown red for a tackle. Though the 85th-minute play occurred deep in Minneapolis’ defensive third, the referee ruled Wagner the last man, and sent him off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
“It was an awesome testament to being, frankly, really stubborn about how games are going to turn out,” Rivard said of the final minutes.
“Oh my God,” Lamarre said, “after we got that first one, the guys were like, ‘It’s not over yet!’
“It’s a very good team, top of the table, that we’re playing against. We talked about it and said, ‘If we’re gonna lose, we’re gonna lose together, and give everything we’ve got.’ And I was gonna give 100-percent.”
Six minutes later, in added time, a Moses Kafeero foul gave the Crows the opportunity to throw bodies into the box ahead of a free kick taken from 35-yards out.
“Steevie has an awareness, and he’s, I would say, pretty sneaky about how he’s reading the game, finding space on the back side,” said Rivard. “And that second goal [was] really calm. He could have taken a quick shot, but he chose to pull it back onto his stronger foot and smash it into the goal.”
Latching onto the ball at the back post, after it had skipped out from a crowd of players attempting to head it on, Lamarre took a single touch to move inside his marker before lacing the ball into the near upper-corner.
“There’s an element of fire that’s super-useful,” Rivard said of Lamarre’s game, “but there also needs to be some balance to it, right? And tonight, he showed he could put those two pieces together, which is really important.”
Going back to 2022, when Lamarre was absent from a Crows’ line-up due to injury, he stopped the author outside the press box. Half-joking, he asked why he hadn’t been interviewed for a match recap, yet, that season.
“You tell me you needed me to score some goals,” Lamarre said, smiling after his brace, “so that’s me keeping my promise to you.”
Rallying from 2-0 down, on the road, while facing first-place Thunder Bay, it was nearly as impressive a result as a draw could be. And perhaps one that will give the Crows momentum to close out their League Two campaign, as well as some for their final Minnesota Super Cup group-stage match.
“The point is valuable, yes. It provides some confidence,” said Rivard. “I think the other piece, which is really valuable for us is that we’re using some other players that haven’t played that much for us this year. That gives us some depth as we head into this home stretch, and that’s a big deal, right? Steevie gave us significant minutes last night. Scott’s come into the lineup as the No. 6 and has been invigorating and a new asset for us. Darley [Florvil] and played nearly the whole game for us, although we took him out a little bit early to be ready for Sunday.
“Just the process of building, because the last few games come pretty fast and furious. The opportunity to get other guys minutes is really valuable. And then you consider that Jonah [Garcia], Brayan [Lopez] and Eric [Contreras], and some of the guys that were really anchors for us to start the year, will be back as we head into our last games. We really should be about as strong as we’ve been all year, and that’s exciting.”