Beloved BlueGreens Brethren,
It is a joy to see you congregate around this message about the opening match of Duluth FC’s inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League. Our humble club has only competed for two seasons since its founding but it has climbed up the ladder of the beautiful game in our country with great success. We are thankful for all the accomplishments thus far, but we are also mindful of the need to continue our improvement.
The 2017 season began on the road at our friends, the Minnesota TwinStars FC, who hosted us at their home stadium, Einer Anderson Stadium in Minnetonka. It appears that tradition prevailed in this match up as we drew the match 1 to 1. This is our third match with the Dragons and it has been draws three times in a row. We anxiously await to host them and we hope to change that tradition. The match was very entertaining with 90+ minutes of non-stop action between the two friendly rivals. The TwinStars head coach, Youssef Darbaki, always prefers a possession sty of play. Likewise, our head coach Kyle Bakas also likes the tiki-taka but for this match it appears that he has chosen a system that broke up TwinStars passing skills. Both clubs used their target forwards effectively as they are both good options. The TwinStars relied greatly on their star attacking midfielder Karim Darbaki #10 who impressed once again. However, the BlueGreens backline definitely hold them off to regularly. Both clubs had some very good chances but neither team was able to stretch the net in the first half. The best chance was definitely on the side of our Duluth men when our forward Garga Nyuah broke away and chipped the TwinStars goalkeeper Sean Teske, but the ball was cleared of the line by a defender after it hit both posts. It was definitely a very exciting first half as both teams had defenders clear the ball after the keepers were beaten. The work displayed by our BlueGreens was tireless and unrelenting. It is best described by this verse from the Bible: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
The second half was equally passionately played by both teams and occasionally it became a little rough out there on the pitch with both sides seeing the Yellow Card on a couple of instances each. Thankfully, the players were respectful toward each other although the play became somewhat more challenging. The TwinStars broke the deadlock at the hour mark with a good strike by Babatunde Oyekan #9. Both teams continued to play hard with the Duluthians definitely increasing their pressure up the pitch and initiating more attacks. Much as in the first half our BlueGreens became increasingly better, connecting more passes and attacking the home side’s net more potently. But an honest evaluation of our play must include the note that there were moments when chemistry was absent and even a few occasions of miscommunication in our midfield and attack. Our backline held strong all match long through the ever-presence of Gonnie Ben-Tal and even initiated direct attacks by the precise long passing of Tom Corcoran. Even as Duluth began dominating play, however, the final ball was hard to come by especially with the TwinStars tightly marking Kyle Farrar. In truth, the Dragons also held up well and even made a few more attempts on our net but they were considerably fewer than in the first half. However, our team never ever quit working and attacking the opponents’ third finding better pass sequences and more shots on net. The Duluthians were steadfast in their work on the pitch. Indeed the BlueGreens were rewarded in truly dramatic fashion with a beautiful goal in the 90th minute scored by our top scorer from last year Kyle Farrar. This finish seems like a manifestation of St. Paul’s message to his brethren in Corinth: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
In closing this homily I encourage our team to continue to work hard thoughtfully and methodically, following the coaches’ instructions at training sessions and during matches. The next match is also on the road at Minneapolis City SC who are a touted as a Goliath in the North Conference. I’m confident they will be good hosts and the match will be equally entertaining. Lastly I urge the BlueGreens to always remember that success comes in their oneness and steadfastness.
May all the players be blessed with good health, all the fans with enjoyment, and for our team we pray for an honorable and good result!