It was a cloudy, but comfortable evening on Saturday at St. Louis Park High School Stadium where Joy Athletic Club took the pitch for their first-ever National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) match. The opponent was Dakota Fusion FC, a member of the NPSL North since 2017. At the end of night, Joy Athletic Club had their first three NPSL points with a 4-1 victory.
Weathering the early jitters, Joy AC struck first in the fourth minute when Philip Caputo teamed up with the lone NPSL veteran of the club – Whitney Browne – on a beautiful give-and-go play. Taking a perfectly placed ball Browne would bury the shot in the far corner from 15-yards out, etching his name in club history as the first goal scorer.
Wearing the #20 shirt for Joy AC, Caputo is a key member of the club. A 2020 graduate of Eagan High, Caputo gained world football experience in the Spring of 2018 while attending the famous Colégio Anchieta in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
In the 30′ Browne would add a second after Devan DiGrado (Prior Lake High ’18) dribbled near the goal line before crossing the ball to a streaking Browne who buried it under the crossbar for the brace. DiGrado has NCAA Division I experience having appeared in nine games this Spring for Western Illinois University as a redshirt sophomore.
No stranger to scoring goals in the NPSL, Browne is one of the more heralded players to come out of Minnesota. After his senior season at Osseo High, Browne was named Minnesota Mr. Soccer of 2008. He was also named ESPN Rise All-America Honorable Mention. With two years experience at Garden City Community College (2010 NJCAA All-American) Browne played the 2011 season with NCAA Division I powerhouse University of Dayton before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for his senior season.
Joy were not finished scoring in the opening half as Emmanuel Iwe scored his first in the 35′ on a play started 70 yards from net. DiGrado began the play with a ball to Browne, who neatly deflected a pass to Iwe on a 40-year sprint past the Fusion defense and beating the keeper to the far corner.
With professional experience with Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica), Iwe will wear the red and white of St. Cloud State University (NCAA Division II) this Fall.
Caputo would add to the Joy AC total as he capped off a team effort in the 56′ with a tap in following a 15-pass series. Iwe served up the final ball from the wing to a wide-open Caputo in front of goal.
Joy Athletic Club, led by Ace Ezrike, return to the pitch on Saturday when they host La Crosse Aris FC. Kick off scheduled for 7:00 PM.