Duluth FC likes to leave it late, which in soccer parlance means the team ekes out draws and wins barely in the nick of time.
The Minnesota team (8-2-4, W-L-T) has netted six goals in stoppage time this season to secure a result while finishing in first in the National Premier Soccer League Midwest Region’s North Division.
The BlueGreens’ followers may have shredded fingernails. To their coach, the heroics show character.
The Minnesota-based outfit plays Detroit City FC in the NPSL Midwest Region playoffs Friday at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. Kickoff is 8 p.m.
Duluth FC is the No. 2 seed; DCFC is No. 4. The winner advances to Saturday’s final to play the winner of the encounter between 1-AFC Ann Arbor and 6-Dayton, which kicks off at 5:15 p.m. Friday.
"There is a lot of fight and resolve in the team,” Duluth FC coach Kyle Bakas said. “Our boys, they don't take well to losing and they do what it takes to get a result and a lot times this year that's really come down to the last minute with them just fighting and fighting, just killing themselves, just putting their body through the wringer to make sure they get the result that they wanted.”
London-raised Kyle Farrar embodies the grit that has become Duluth FC’s calling card. The 6-foot center forward has slotted 13 goals in 12 matches, which ranks fourth in the 93-team NPSL.
Farrar, 25, played for semi-professional Bromley FC, then in the Blue Square South, which is in the sixth tier of the English game, as a teenager. He emigrated to the U.S. and starred for Division III St. Scholastica in Duluth where he earned First Team National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American honors in his junior year.
“He does a great job of holding the ball up for us. He can pick out a pass,” Bakas said. “He can score with either foot. He can score in the air. He's just very useful at everything.”
Farrar also doesn’t shy from the physical game. He was raised on the ruggedness of the British game where possession is gained through brute force opposed to finesse.
Farrar’s game also relies on heavy distribution from his wingers Andrew Jenkins and Charlie Crane.
The tactical ploy only belies a fraction of what makes Duluth FC tick, the goal scorer confided.
“We work hard together, but we work hard for each other,” Farrar said. “That's the consistent part that's what gone on throughout our season. We've had a lot of late goals, a lot of results that people might say we shouldn't have got, but we got them because we all stuck together and played that 90 minutes for each other.”
Duluth FC started two years ago on a prayer.
The club was formed by Rev. Timothy Sas, a Greek Orthodox priest. “He's got a great passion and love for everything, especially soccer,” Bakas said.
Last season, the team played in the regional American Premier League and decided to make the jump to the NPSL.
Bakas, an assistant men’s and women’s coach at Lake Superior College, tapped soccer talent at the area’s colleges and then cast a wider net. The Victoriaville, Calif., native reached out to college and high school coaches across the country in hopes of landing players. The big hang up was finding permanent housing.
"Three guys were on my couch for a couple of weeks until we could sort that out,” Bakas said. “I got to know people really well."
The baptism by fire this season included having the team play its first five matches on the road where The BlueGreens went a tidy 2-0-3.
“At first it was quite daunting, but I think it toughened us up and it made us realize once we got through those five away games ... it was going to be a good fun,” Farrar said.
NPSL MIDWEST REGION PLAYOFFS
Where: Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck
When: Friday, No. 1 AFC Ann Arbor vs. No. 6 Dayton, 5:15 p.m.
No. 4 Detroit City FC vs. No. 2 Duluth FC, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Friday’s winners, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $10 each day or $15 for a weekend pass for admission to semifinals and final matches. One ticket Friday is good for both semifinal games. For tickets go to tickets.detcityfc.com