Forward Madison FC welcomed a club-record crowd of 4,821 fans to Breese Stevens Field as Minnesota United FC became the first MLS club to play in Wiscinson in 14 years on Tuesday night. | Photo courtesy Justin Nuoffer / Forward Madison FC
MADISON, Wisc. – Forward Madison FC continued to raise the bar on its remarkable inaugural season on Tuesday night as a crowd of 4,821 fans packed into a sold-out Breese Stevens Field to set a club attendance record for the club’s exhibition clash with Minnesota United FC, the first Major League Soccer team to ever visit Madison.
The Loons came out on top 2-1 thanks to a pair of goals by Mason Toye, who has made seven appearances for Forward Madison on loan this season, but the hosts more than held their own against a team at the highest level of American soccer as an MLS side played in Wisconsin for the first time in 14 years.
According to FMFC Head Coach Daryl Shore, the gravity of the moment couldn’t be missed.
“It was overall a great performance and a great night for Madison,” Shore said. “[I’m] pleased with what our guys got out of the game.”
Minnesota United Assistant Coach Mark Watson, who was managing the Loons, said the energy inside the stadium impressed his team.
“To come here and spend some time in the city and see the stadium and what they've got going on here is incredible,” he said. “They're just halfway through year one and it's pretty impressive what they've built, so it was nice to see that and be a part of that.”
Neither team fielded a roster completely at full strength, with FMFC looking ahead to a key upcoming League One clash on Friday evening against Toronto FC II and Minnesota readying for a match on Saturday, but the first half in particular featured a good group of gameday regulars. The ‘Mingos opened the match with a fast start, Paulo Júnior and Josiel Núñez both firing off multiple shots. Soon after, though, the Loons began to control the contest with their 3-5-2 formation that created a mismatch in midfield.
Most of the action took place in the middle 15 minutes of the half, with Toye benefitting on his first goal from fullback Eric Miller’s consistent runs along the right end line. Miller sent in a cross right to the edge of the six-yard box in the 23rd minute, and Toye was able to knock it home to give Minnesota the lead.
Not all was lost for Madison, though. Núñez continued his habit using his skill to make opposition defenders looks silly, while forward Danny Tenorio came out sharp in his first start at home. After the first goal, the match took on a softer tone, with few dominating stretches from either side, save a confrontation between Minnesota captain Brent Kallman and Forward Madison defender Shaun Russell that earned Kallman a yellow card in the 35th minute.
After the break, FMFC made a host of changes, bringing on both guest players and players from USL League Two’s Green Bay Voyageurs to fill in. Despite having a more inexperienced team, the younger ‘Mingos used their fresher legs to achieve control in the match.
Forward Madison’s goal came in the 57th minute, when Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair (who played the first match of the season for FMFC) mishandled a back pass, which led Tenorio to swoop in and apply the finishing touch. The goal was Tenorio’s first for FMFC and is a major step in the Ecuadorian’s continuing return from injury.
The Loons looked to their bench to regain the lead, substituting on midfielder Miguel Ibarra, who has made three appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Still, it looked for a while like the home team might have held onto a draw.
In the end, though, Minnesota found the winner, with Toye bagging his brace in the 80th minute. Midfielder Collin Martin played him in on goal with a beautiful chip over the defense, and Toye did the rest by driving a low shot past Brandon Barnes. .
FMFC now has a long break until its next home game, which doesn’t occur until July 16. The Flamingos will travel to play Toronto FC II on Friday afternoon, the start of a three-game road stretch in USL League One play. The ‘Mingos currently sit in seventh place, just four points out of a playoff position.
“[We’ve] got to get rested tomorrow and Thursday and go in there and give it our best,” Shore said. “We know that they’re going to be looking to exact revenge after we beat them at home, but I think it’s one of those where we’ve got to just keep pushing the games and try to get a result out of it.”