Remember when: the first derby

Remember when: the first derby

Before there was the NPSL North, before the now-folded VSLT and TwinStars, before Joy Athletic and St Croix and all of the new UPSL teams, there were only two clubs of any stature in the Twin Cities: Minnesota United and Minneapolis City. And on a glorious day summer day the United Reserves faced off against the Mighty Crows in the first Twin Cities Derby.

It was a classic match-up: City vs United. The noisy neighbors vs the behemoth. The ramshackle underdogs vs the well-capitalized machine. “We were so amped up for this game” said Sarah Schreier, currently Operations Director but at the time pretty much the entire front office. “It was a real chance for us to show what we could do.”

The City team that day included a number of familiar names like Abdallah Bah, Aaron Olson, Samuel Ruiz Plaza, Will Kidd, and Max Stiegwardt, though the headlines were stolen by a man who played just one season for City: former United forward Andy Lorei.

The game really meant something, as all derbies do, and City seized the initiative from the opening whistle. It was all pass-and-move and drives into space. It was all too much for the Loons to handle. Isaac “Goose” Friendt drove into the box on the dribble and won a penalty that Lorei duly dispatched.  

1-0 to City and that only seemed to embolden the Crows further. 

“We had four or five chances within the first 15 minutes because we caught them on their heels.”

The pressure continued as City ran rampant, but an inability to finish seemed to give United confidence and they had a spell of pressure of their own as the half drew to a close. Goalkeeper Matt Elder stood tall in the goal though with two decent saves. The second of those, stopping Galvan Yanez, seemed to swing the momentum back to City.

Ben Wexler drives forward with the ball as Minneapolis City defeat Minnesota United Reserves 3-0

Still, it took until the 52nd minute for the second goal. Lorei found himself 25 yards out with the ball and his back to goal. In the moment, he seemed to tire on waiting for a teammate to make a run so, instead, he made a quick turn to goal. Playing through a foul, he got by his man and fired a sledgehammer of a shot that beat Reserves goalkeeper Aaron Perez at the near post and double the City lead.

“Taking the penalty in the first few minutes gave me a lot of confidence” Lorei said. “Once I hit that I knew it was going to be a good day and it was.”

The small band of fans was loud and raucous in cheering on the Crows, and it was clear that something special was happening. The echoes of this game are heard at Edor Nelson today, not least because many of the same songs as still sung.

Between the second goal and the fans in full voice, the momentum was clearly on City’s side. While United were able muster some chances, not least through journeyman Whitney Browne, it was the Crows who put the icing on this tasty derby cake in the 89th minute when Ryan Cammorata played winger Isaac Forsgren through on goal. Forsgren cut in on an angle from the wing and slotted past Perez to put the finishing touches on an emphatic win.

The OG Citizens, cheering on City back in 2016

“That was a good win for us” said Lorei after the game. “We’ve played three games together so there’s not a lot of chemistry. I think you could see it changing though. That was the first game I felt like ‘okay, when he gets the ball I know what he’s doing.’ It just takes some time and you could really feel it this game.”

“That whole season was about proving ourselves” said Jon Bisswurm, club co-founder, “and beating United Reserves like that was a strong dose of proof for everyone in the club and out. Plus, it made us kings of the Twin Cities.”

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